A new inspector general report underscores the need for taking care to follow purchasing rules even for low-cost basic items to be shared in an office such as a manager might order.
The report on use of purchase cards at the IRS found that controls “are generally effective, and the number of purchase card violations identified by the IRS credit card services branch were minimal and generally for nominal amounts.”
However, among the purchases deemed to be “misuse”—because they involved items that could be for the purchaser’s personal use—were for common office supplies such as air fresheners, hand sanitizer, hand towels and tissues.
In addition, the IG found another 37 purchase card transactions—out of a total of some 31,000 over a six-month period totaling almost $14 million—to be not in compliance with OMB policy.
Some of those also involved items of basic need in an office such as USB cables, keyboards and HDMI cables, but whose purchases were deemed in violation because they were not made through IT procurement channels. Similarly, a $190 purchase of calendars was considered a violation because it involved an unapproved source.
While the amounts of money involved were small, there were career implications nonetheless for some of the employees who made those purchases, including two who received cautionary letters and one who received written counseling.
The IRS penalty guide provides a range of penalties from a five-day suspension for a first offense up to removal for a third offense for misuse of a purchase card, the report noted, although there is discretion in applying those penalties.