WASHINGTON – The Government Accountability Office has outlined 13 recommendations to two federal budgeting agencies in an attempt to place stronger controls on the free-wheeling spending being charged to government credit cards.
A new GAO audit has found that over a 15-month period, nearly 41 percent of credit card purchases violated procedure in some way. The credit cards frequently served as personal lines of credit, auditors say, with federal workers posting charges for such items as Internet dating, tailor-made suits and lavish dinners costing more than $150 dollars per head.
Among some of the examples reported by the GAO was an Agricultural Department employee who paid $642,000 to a live-in boyfriend. That money was apparently used for gambling and car and mortgage payments, among other things.
At the U.S. Postal Service workers expensed $14,000 on Internet dating and a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse dinner for 81 people.
The Pentagon tab has $77,000 for clothing, accessories and sporting goods. Among the charges were $45,000 at Brooks Brothers and other high-end stores that make custom suits.
And a State Department employee spent $360 on lingerie at Seduccion Boutique supposedly to be used for jungle training in Ecuador.
"At a time of increased economic pressures, and a feeling that government spending is out of control, the American people should not be expected to tolerate wasteful and abusive spending of their tax dollars," said Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., ranking member of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, who sought the audit with subcommittee chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.
GAO has given the Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration a list of recommendations for curbing expenses. They include suggestions like getting pre-approval before cards can be charged, reducing the use of convenience checks and limiting the per diem rate on meals and other expenses during government-sponsored travel.
Levin and Coleman have proposed a bill to require federal agencies to strengthen their internal controls for government charge card programs and establish penalties for violations, including offseting salaries of government employees who make improper purchases with government credit cards. The bill will be put before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on Thursday.
FOX News' Shannon Bream contributed to this report.