The U.S. Marshals Service’s investigative operations division spent almost $800,000 on coins, Christmas ornaments and other “swag” from fiscal 2005 to 2010, according to a newly released review that labeled the expenditures excessive and, in some cases, against the rules.
During that six-year period, the division’s spending on such promotional items soared by 975 percent, or far more than the Marshals Service’s total budget grew, auditors for the Justice Department’s inspector general found. Among the expenses: $155,100 on challenge coins, $11,300 on neckties and silk scarves emblazoned with the Marshals Service seal, $13,600 on Marshals Service-themed ornaments, and $16,000 on blankets and throws.
The spending spree stemmed from a dearth of internal controls within the agency and a lack of good judgment on the part of employees who had purchasing responsibility, the audit said. While some of the buys — such as coins — “arguably” served a legitimate purposes by spreading the word about Marshals Service programs, congressionally appropriated funds should not have been used to buy ornaments and other items meant to serve as employee morale-builders, the auditors concluded.
Policies put in place since 2011 will restrain swag purchases, the IG found, but auditors also urged the Marshals Service to inventory its current stock of promotional items and step up monitoring of future purchases to ensure compliance with the new policies.