U.S. Department of Defense employees may have spent millions of dollars using government credit cards on goods and services that were improperly marked as COVID-19 response measures, and one lawmaker is calling Pentagon officials out on their apparent lack of oversight.

After a watchdog report found that falsely reported COVID-19 expenses is an “extensive and diverse” problem at DOD, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, sent a letter to Secretary Lloyd Austin on April 22, calling the situation a “a slap in the face to the taxpayer.”

The inspector general for the Pentagon published a report in January that found of the $242 million spent on COVID-19 response at the height of the pandemic, an estimated $53 million worth of credit card purchases did not align with that purpose, and half of purchases also lacked documentation.

Among some of the purchases flagged by Grassley include cybersecurity training courses for $23,000, Nordic skiing machines and floor stands for $4,000, vehicle repairs and gasoline, dry erase markers, a picture frame and a kitchen knob.

At the time, agency employees who had been given government purchase cards were authorized to use them for COVID-19 pandemic response. Whereas 90% of the federal government teleworked in 2020, some work done on military installations and inside secure facilities could not so seamlessly transition to remote work. Thus, the rapidly spreading virus created an urgent need for government offices to buy items for safety and continuity of operations, including face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer or teleworking equipment.

To accommodate this need, Pentagon officials also increased the spending limits on cards used for these purposes, though it also added guardrails, including requirements to review purchases and furnish evidence for their justification.

“The IG report shows that this message was ignored,” Grassley wrote in the letter, shared with Federal Times. “Ultimately, only three of the 10 evaluated DOD organizations conducted these mandatory [purchase] reviews. This is not acceptable.”

In several cases cited in the inspector general report, officials had merely incorrectly marked a purchase under a pandemic label or had misunderstood the classifications.

And while there was a requirement to evaluate purchases within 60 days, responses from each of the military branches showed this follow-up reporting was inconsistent.

Military Times previously reported that officials denied that $53 million was improperly spent.

Inspector General Robert Storch said in a Jan. 17 statement that accounting for credit card purchases more uniformly is essential to ensuring transparency and accountability in future national emergencies.

“When it comes to catching fraud, DOD’s internal controls are a complete failure,” Grassley said in a statement to Federal Times. “We’ve known it for decades, and this is the latest example.”

Molly Weisner is a staff reporter for Federal Times where she covers labor, policy and contracting pertaining to the government workforce. She made previous stops at USA Today and McClatchy as a digital producer, and worked at The New York Times as a copy editor. Molly majored in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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