Audit uncovers misuse of purchase cards at VA

File photo (WCIV)

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- The Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (OIG) conducted an audit of the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center's Engineering Service after getting a tip on their hotline.

According to a release from the OIG, the audit uncovered engineering employees were splitting purchases to get around a $3,000 micro-purchase limit placed on government purchase cards.

The Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy defines a split purchase as "the 'intentional' breaking down of a known requirement to stay within the cardholder's single purchase limit to avoid sending the requirement to the contracting office for award.

This includes splitting requirements among merchants, among cardholders or splitting over several days.

The OIG audit looked at 139 purchases made from October 2011 through May 2013 and found 40 "unauthorized commitments" totaling $83,100

Within those 40 commitments were 35 split purchases (which is not allowed under the government purchase card program) and five purchases that exceeded the micro-purchase limit.

OIG officials said they also found 33 purchases that were improperly documented totaling about $55,000.

"This occurred due to ineffective oversight of cardholder transactions and inadequate purchase card training of approving officials and cardholders," the release states. "As a result, we estimated that Charleston VAMC's Engineering Service cardholders made about $274,000 in unauthorized commitments and approximately $372,000 of purchases that lacked sufficient documentation."

As a result of these findings, OIG has asked the Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 7 Director review Charleston VAMC Engineering Service's purchase card transactions and take appropriate actions.

The medical center released a statement Thursday evening saying it was implementing a new process to ensure the use of the purchase cards was in compliance with the program's guidelines.{}

"While all of theitems purchased were required for delivery of health care and operation of themedical center, procedural issues were found with the purchase cardprogram.{} The medical center has implemented processes to ensure improvedmonitoring and management of the purchase program, and has completed refreshertraining for Engineering Service's purchase cardholders and approvingofficials," the release stated.