Congress to start 2016 with waste-cutting resolutions

Amid the last-minute maneuvering to pass the 2016 omnibus bill and avert a government shutdown, the Senate last week passed two bills that address government waste.

The Senate passed Sen. Tom Carper’s (D-Del.) government purchase and travel card bill on Dec. 18, the last congressional working day of 2015.

Carper’s legislation would create an Office of Federal Charge Card Analytics and Review (OFCCAR) within the General Services Administration, an agency watchdog that would oversee the use of...

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Amid the last-minute maneuvering to pass the 2016 omnibus bill and avert a government shutdown, the Senate last week passed two bills that address government waste.

The Senate passed Sen. Tom Carper’s (D-Del.) government purchase and travel card bill on Dec. 18, the last congressional working day of 2015.

Carper’s legislation would create an Office of Federal Charge Card Analytics and Review (OFCCAR) within the General Services Administration, an agency watchdog that would oversee the use of purchase and travel cards.

“This common sense legislation would implement stronger and smarter controls to prevent potential abuse and misuse of government charge cards. While federal agencies have made progress in strengthening financial controls over government travel and purchase cards, more needs to be done to eliminate wasteful charge card spending,” Carper said in a statement following passage of the bill.

The purchase and travel card watchdog would review transaction data for all federal agencies to reduce improper payments and provide best practices on strategic sourcing. It would also provide a library of search tools for agencies to analyze their own spending data.

The Office of Management and Budget would also join in on the waste fighting effort. The bill requires OMB to issue information-sharing guidance to prevent agencies from dealing with high-risk vendors.

Carper wrote the legislation in response to a Defense Department inspector general report from May that showed travel card purchases were made at casinos and on adult entertainment.

The IG gathered his findings from a DoD travel card audit, which was mandated under a 2012 law championed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), a co-sponsor of the Carper bill.

“This bill builds on my Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 by adding an additional layer of governmentwide oversight to the work of individual agency inspectors general,” Grassley said. “Our bill will make sure we’re looking for similar patterns of misuse across all federal agencies and that agencies are sharing best practices to prevent misuse and identify potential cost savings.”

The bill was also co-sponsored by Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).

GONE Act pushes for better banking with federal grants

The Senate passed another waste-fighting bill on Dec. 18 that would address the federal government’s habit of spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in service fees to maintain bank accounts that hold no money.

The Grants Oversight and New Efficiency (GONE) Act would give new oversight to federal grant programs, and would require agencies to close out expired grants accounts with a $0 balance within 90 days.

“While tales of government waste are all too familiar, government spending on literally nothing appears to be a new low,” bill sponsor Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) said in a statement. “The GONE Act takes significant steps to close out these long expired grants and identify why they were never closed in the first place.”

In 2013, the government spent $890,000 in service fees on empty but active grant accounts.

Both Carper and Fischer’s bills now head to the House, which reconvenes Jan. 5.

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