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Senate Passes Federal Credit Card Use Reform


Begich Co-sponsors Act to Save Taxpayer Funds and Ensure Efficient Spending

In an effort to end irresponsible and illegal expenditures of taxpayer money by federal employees the U.S. Senate has passed the Government Charge Card Abuse Act S.942, co-sponsored by Sen. Mark Begich. A bipartisan piece of legislation passed by unanimous consent, the law will work to increase levels of accountability for federal employees, create new policies to improve transparency, and provide training to federal employees.

"This is a common sense piece of legislation that promotes practical reforms in the everyday use of government funds," Sen. Begich said. "These efforts will play a positive role in reducing and eliminating wasteful spending by bringing increased transparency and accountability into an important and cautious realm of government spending."

Federal employees authorized to spend government funds are issued credit cards through the General Service Administration's (GSA) SmartPay program. Intended as a method to speed and ease government acquisitions and travel, the program has had problems with wasteful spending, fraud and abuse.

The Government Charge Card Abuse Act will increase accountability, transparency and efficiency in the use of taxpayer money by:

-          Requiring the maintenance of a record of each cardholder, including single transaction limits and total transaction limits so agencies can more effectively manage cardholders.
-          Performing credit checks for travel card holders and placing restrictions on cards based on past credit card usage by the card holders.
-          Requiring periodic reviews to determine if cardholders have a need for a card.
-          Providing training for cardholders and managers.
-          Streamlining procedures for the reconciliation and refund of disputed charges and unused travel purchases.
-          Establishing separate approving officials other than card holders so employees cannot approve their own purchases.

During the 111th Congress Sen. Begich has been a strong supporter of efforts to increase transparency in government and promote efficiency in government spending. This has included support for the Weapon Systems Acquisition reform Act of 2009 (S.454), which curtails waste and inefficiency in defense acquisition; the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program Act of 2009 (S.383), which expanded oversight of TARP; and the Federal Financial Assistance Management Improvement Act of 2009 (S.303), which simplifies and streamlines the government grants process.

When serving as Mayor of Anchorage, Begich reduced the number of employees with municipal credit cards and his administration put in policies and procedures restricting the use of the cards.

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