More than $5 million in unauthorized “micro-purchases” were made with government charge cards by employees of the U.S. Southern Command from April 2012 to March 2013.

Government purchase cards are intended to be used only for purchases of approved merchandise under $3,000. Southern Command employees used the cards improperly nearly 6,000 times at a cost of $5.1 million, according to a Department of Defense inspector general report.

Another $160,000 was spent on an estimated 3,500 unnecessary gifts in the years since 2010, often just days before the government’s fiscal years ended. The items remained in storage at least three years.

“The wasteful expenditures could have been put to use in other operational areas and are considered abusive use of the [purchase cards],” the IG said.

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