Federal employees used government credit cards to pay for lingerie, gambling, iPods, Internet dating services, and a $13,000 steak-and-liquor dinner, according to a new audit from the Government Accountability Office, which found widespread abuses in a purchasing program meant to improve bureaucratic efficiency.
In the fraudulent category, a longtime employee of the U.S. Forest Service in Oregon, Debra K. Durfey, wrote convenience checks worth more than $640,000 from 2000 to 2006 to a live-in boyfriend, who used the money for gambling, car expenses and mortgage payments, according to the GAO and the Justice Department.
The fraud went undetected until a whistle-blower forwarded a tip to the Agriculture Department's inspector general. Durfey, who headed her unit's purchasing office, pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to 21 months in prison and restitution.
In a case the GAO deemed "abusive," the Postal Service spent $13,500 in 2006 on a dinner at a Ruth's Chris Steak House in Orlando, including "over 200 appetizers and over $3,000 of alcohol, including more than 40 bottles of wine costing more than $50 each and brand-name liquor such as Courvoisier, Belvedere and Johnny Walker Gold." The tab came to more than $160 a head for the 81 guests, the report said.
The GAO found that 41 percent of the transactions it examined did not follow government purchasing rules. The problem was worse with larger purchases: Forty-eight percent of transactions over $2,500 were in violation of federal rules, the report said.
Government is the least efficient way of doing almost anything. If any of this happened at a corporation, it would have been caught quickly because the company is concerned about how its money is spent. Obviously, the government is not nearly as concerned about how our money is spent.