The inspector general’s office at the Interior Department has issued a “management advisory” questioning some purchases made for pandemic-related reasons on charge cards, including the perennial issue with those cards of split purchases.
Like virtually every other federal agency, Interior last year experienced a surge in spending for personal protective equipment and other items needed for health and safety reasons. The IG identified classified nearly 30,000 purchase card transactions, totaling over $19.7 million, as COVID-19 related purchases over the 12 months starting in March 2020.
“Our past work, as well as ongoing projects, indicates that purchase card transactions in these situations are at a high risk for fraud, waste, and abuse,” the report says, including the potential for split purchasing—in which a transaction is divided into multiple, smaller transactions to keep each below a threshold level that would trigger standard acquisition rules.
It said that its review “identified multiple instances where DOI cardholders appeared to be making split purchases, either alone or with other cardholders in their units and bureaus, to procure goods or services that exceeded the micropurchase threshold.” It gave as examples situations in which a cardholder conducted multiple transactions on the same day with the same vendors; and in which multiple cardholders in the same unit or office made purchases on the same day from the same vendor.
It said that during a three-month period last year alone, purchases totaling above $500,000 appeared to be prohibited split purchases.
Because the report was an alert, there was no management response to the IG’s recommendations to better monitor purchase card spending.