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'Overwhelming Number' of DoD Charge Card Users Don't Abuse, Zakheim Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 10, 2003 – The vast majority of DoD purchase and credit card holders don't misuse their government-issued cards and pay the bills on time, the department's senior financial officer said here March 5.

Defense Comptroller Dov S. Zakheim emphasized an "overwhelming number" of cardholders behave properly and in conformity of the rules.

Travel charge cards are used to pay for authorized expenses on temporary duty travel, while purchase cards are used to pay for authorized goods for the government.

The percentage of cardholders considered delinquent in paying charge card bills - over 60 days past due -- keeps dropping, Zakheim pointed out. In January 2003 just 2.5 percent of more than a million cardholders were delinquent in paying their bills.

DoD has increased training to further improve management and oversight of the system, he noted. The department has also reduced the number of issued travel cards by about 400,000 over the past year, he added, mostly by recalling cards that were seldom used.

And, through wage garnishment, the department has recovered about $31 million in government credit card-related debt since October 2001, the comptroller noted.

DoD is also working with Congress and the General Accounting Office to tighten up its travel and purchase card programs, Zakheim said.

On December 18, 2002, Zakheim signed Management Initiative Decision 904 for improving charge card management within DoD. Initiatives contained in 904 include:

  • Development of systems to acquire and report statistics on criminal investigations and administrative sanctions related to improper card use.

  • Development of a plan to evaluate the creditworthiness of all new DoD applicants for government purchase cards and travel charge cards.

  • Establishment of DoD guidelines and procedures for disciplinary actions to be taken against DoD personnel for improper, fraudulent or abusive use of government purchase and travel cards.

  • Address cardholders' and approving officials' track record with government charge cards in performance evaluations.

  • Review purchasing practices with vendors with the goal of bettering purchasing power with those vendors.

The implementation of a "data-mining" system to improve surveillance of charge card purchases was responsible for 75 investigations of alleged fraud, Zakheim pointed out.

However, the comptroller reiterated, persons caught using their government-issued purchase and credit cards for nonofficial purposes represent "a tiny, tiny minority that aren't doing things right."

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