SHAHEEN CALLS ON IRS TO IMPLEMENT OVERSIGHT CONTROLS, DISCIPLINARY MEASURES

In letter to Acting IRS Commissioner, Shaheen demands ‘swift action’ address agency spending abuses

June 28, 2013

(Washington, DC) – Today U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) called on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to address findings that agency employees abused taxpayer dollars under the IRS purchase card program by laying out safeguards to prevent future abuses. 

In a letter to Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel, Shaheen calls for reforms following a recently released Inspector General (IG) audit detailing misuse of Internal Revenue Service-issued credit cards and the agency’s lack of internal controls to prevent and identify waste, fraud and abuse. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s audit identified nearly $108 million in misused purchased card and convenience check spending.

“The Inspector General’s report catalogues a range of troubling incidents where IRS purchase cards were used to evade procurement regulations and to buy personal items, goods on the Department of Treasury’s ‘Do Not Buy List,’ expensive dinners, large amounts of alcohol and, in two cases, pornography,” Shaheen wrote. “I am particularly troubled by the report’s finding that, in the instances where wrongdoing was successfully identified, the IRS’ disciplinary actions were consistently less severe than what the agency’s own internal guidance recommends. 

“While managerial discretion is important, the lack of agency action to effectively report and discipline employees for misusing IRS purchase cards provides no incentive for workers to follow the rules,” Shaheen added.  “I urge you to act without delay to ensure that employees who violate IRS purchasing rules and regulations are subject to all appropriate disciplinary measures.”

Today’s letter follows up on Shaheen’s recent call for a complete and thorough IRS audit after it was discovered that the IRS improperly scrutinized certain organizations applying for tax exempt status based on their partisan leanings.  

The full text of Shaheen’s letter is below:

The Honorable Daniel Werfel
Acting Commissioner
Internal Revenue Service
1111 Constitution Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20224

Dear Acting Commisioner Werfel:

I write to express my concern regarding the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s recent audit report detailing the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) flawed oversight and lack of internal controls to prevent, identify and address the inappropriate and wasteful use of agency purchase cards and convenience checks.  I believe that swift action is necessary to ensure that these deficiencies are addressed and taxpayer dollars used in a responsible manner.

As you know, the Inspector General’s report catalogues a range of troubling incidents where IRS purchase cards were used to evade procurement regulations and to buy personal items, goods on the Department of Treasury’s “Do Not Buy List,” expensive dinners, large amounts of alcohol and, in two cases, pornography.  I am particularly troubled by the report’s finding that, in the instances where wrongdoing was successfully identified, the IRS’ disciplinary actions were consistently less severe than what the agency’s own internal guidance recommends.  While managerial discretion is important, the lack of agency action to effectively report and discipline employees for misusing IRS purchase cards provides no incentive for workers to follow the rules.  I urge you to act without delay to ensure that employees who violate IRS purchasing rules and regulations are subject to all appropriate disciplinary measures.

The Inspector General’s report also provides eleven recommendations to improve IRS controls over purchase card and convenience check spending and I am pleased that you have agreed to implement these policy changes.  I nevertheless remain concerned about your agency’s ability to effectively carry out the IG’s recommendations for reforming the purchase card program.  In particular, it has been over a decade since the Inspector General first recommended that the IRS establish a procedure to cancel the purchase cards of former employees in a timely manner.  Although the agency agreed at the time that such changes were necessary, it has yet to update its guidance accordingly.

As I’m sure you would agree, ensuring the appropriate use of taxpayer funds is an essential responsibility of the federal government.  To that end, what assurances can you provide that the IRS will implement effective oversight of the purchase card program, as it has failed to do in the past?  Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

Jeanne Shaheen

United States Senator

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