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FEMA Workers Ran Up $247,100 in ‘Improper Purchases’ on Government Credit Cards–Including $4,318 in ‘Happy Birthday’ Cards

Fred Lucas
CNS News [1]
July 1, 2010

One employee used a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) credit card to buy $4,318 in “Happy Birthday” gift cards. Two other FEMA officials charged the cost of 360 golf umbrellas — $9,000 — to the taxpayers. Other FEMA officials used funds allocated for disaster relief in Oklahoma to buy 19 portable ceramic heaters for the office at a cost of $1,098.
In all, $247,100 in “improper” expenses was made to FEMA credit cards, according to a report [2] by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General.
“Disaster purchase cards can be used only for disaster needs, using disaster funding, and are the preferred method to pay for disaster-related micro-purchases,” the IG report says. “With more effective internal controls, FEMA could have prevented more than $247,100 of improper purchases or detected them more quickly.”
Between October 2007 and June 2009, the time period in which the OIG reviewed the credit card purchases, the office found a total of 280 people holding disaster-purchase cards spent more than $14.1 million. Office supplies were the most common purchase, but fit within authorized expenses.

Full article here [1]