An IG investigation has confirmed allegations that employees of a VA medical center split purchases in order to avoid limits on the amount that may be charged on government-issued purchase cards.

The report said that of 130 sampled purchases, 23 were split purchases that avoided the $3,000 limit for supplies and 14 were split to aviod the $2,500 limit for services. It projected that of the 5,100 purchases during the period covered, about 100, totaling $240,000, were unauthorized commitments and improper payments. ‘This was not prevented because approving officials did not adequately monitor cardholders to ensure compliance with VA policy,’ it said.

In one case, for example, a cardholder purchased 16 hospital bed cables for about $2,900 and 22 minutes later purchased another 16 of the same cables for the same price from the same vendor. In another, a cardholder divided an order for three copier rentals into three separate transactions over just four minutes.

Misuse of purchase cards has been the subject of numerous reports by IGs and the GAO and congressional hearings for years, and has remained a persistent problem despite a series of directives and laws in response.

The audit also found that cardholders inappropriately made 91 micro purchases for about $218,000 of services received without competition as required for purchases over $5,000–which similarly was not detected because ‘approving officials did not adequately review cardholder transactions.’