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Posted at 9:00 AM ET, 02/11/2011

Report: Postal workers used official credit cards for private travel and 'adult entertainment'

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated and corrected 2/17/11 10:16 a.m. ET
If the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service wants to save money it should ensure that its workers aren't booking pricey hotel rooms and airplane tickets or buying pornography, according to a new watchdog report.

Over a two-year period, some postal workers used credit cards meant for travel and lodging expenses to buy family members flights to Spain and Italy, purchase Apple computers and make more than 50 purchases at "adult entertainment" stores.

The findings, detailed in a Postal Service Inspector General report, also reveal that USPS didn't cancel 2,491 credit cards issued to former employees, including 53 who were listed as deceased. Two former employees were still using their cards after they left, according to the report.

All told, the mail agency could have saved more than $600,000 in excessive travel costs during fiscal 2009 and 2010 if it had cracked down on non-compliant workers, the report said.

Despite the fraud, the Postal Service cut its travel budget by 17 percent in fiscal 2010 to $94.8 million.

USPS employs 583,000 workers and funds itself through the sale of postal products and services instead of taxpayer dollars. It plans on cutting about $2 billion in costs this year -- mostly by eliminating 40 million work hours -- but still forecasts a $7 billion loss after losing a record $8.5 billion in fiscal 2010. It warned again this week that it will likely run out of money by the end of the fiscal year after exceeding its borrowing limit with the U.S. Treasury.

The report reviewed 155,104 lodging transactions and found that more than 21,000 exceeded government lodging rates established by the General Services Administration. In one case, a worker claimed 326 nights of hotel bills that exceeded government rates by $17,877. Workers who attended the largest postal customer convention in 2009 and 2010 -- mostly mid-level executives and sales personnel based in regional offices and Washington headquarters -- collectively exceeded lodging rates by almost $89,000.

The inspector general's office further investigated several cases of employee misconduct unearthed by the investigation and some of the workers were later fired, the report said. Investigators also recommended tighter enforcement of the lodging and travel reimbursement policies and suggested USPS retrain workers on the rules.

Responding to the report, Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who closely tracks postal affairs, said she was alarmed by the findings.

"It is very frustrating that an organization that was $8.5 billion in the hole last year, has not adopted a frugal culture," she said. "The proper controls are not in place to either prevent or uncover frequent credit card abuses."

Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), a normally supportive backer of postal leadership, also expressed concern. "I've told the new postmaster general and his predecessor that he and other top postal executives need to do their part as well," Carper said in a statement. "If they are going to ask postal employees and customers to make sacrifices to save the Postal Service, then the postal leadership certainly has a responsibility to set a good example when it comes to frugality and basic financial management. In this case, they have clearly failed."

Officials quoted in the report said they won't retrain workers due to the high costs of doing so, but will closely monitor travel transactions and remind workers of the existing policy. A Postal Service spokesman declined to comment further on the report.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

By Ed O'Keefe  | February 11, 2011; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Oversight, Postal Service  
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Comments

You know.....I reported the Post Office...here in Cleveland Hts.,Ohio for Human Trafficking...And Porn...And guess what they said??Nothing!!Guess what they did?Nothing!!I even told them the Severance Center...Post Office....So...I'll ask you This Question...Is it My Responsibility....To Go and get the FACTS???Should the Public....put their life in Danger....For the Ignorant People here....Who are Supposed to Protect and Serve??Explain Again....What is a Police Departments
J O B???Do they have one??Besides Setting people up??Besides Taking Wrong Reports?I have reported Several...Very important Things here.....And Again....They have Done NOTHING!!

Posted by: catwoman125mom | February 11, 2011 10:59 AM | Report abuse

When Police Officers..Enter ANY home....They should never Complain about what a Person does in their own Home!!Cigarette Smoke....IS NOT ILLEGAL....If i want to Smoke in my OWN HOME....I can do So...And if they have a Problem with that...Then here is a Great Tip for Them...GET ANOTHER J O B!!

Posted by: catwoman125mom | February 11, 2011 11:12 AM | Report abuse

It not the government we need to worry about, it the evil private businesses we need to do something about. It only tax money being wasted, not private money.

Posted by: tateofpa | February 11, 2011 12:15 PM | Report abuse

You know what ?
It is all the fault of the Neo-Cons and their last figure head leader...G.W.Bush.
Man-up and carry on !!!

Posted by: wek41 | February 11, 2011 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I paid thousands to my congressman to keep our post office off the closing list.

Posted by: blasmaic | February 11, 2011 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Mr. O'Keefe, you are a professional journalist, sworn to provide those facts your readers most want to know. What particular purchases were made at the adult venues?

Posted by: Martial | February 11, 2011 2:17 PM | Report abuse

I have never seen a comment area where almost every one was "off point". What does the comment by catwoman125mom have to do with the USPS.
The Inspector General of the Post Office and USPS auditors are not doing a very good job of monitoring fraud and employee misconduct. I reported misconduct on the part of a PO manager and staff and got no results.

Posted by: pjohn3 | February 11, 2011 2:22 PM | Report abuse

It's good enough for the RNC, and they are the guardians of the nation's morals you know.

Posted by: AMviennaVA | February 11, 2011 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Let me get this straight: you can no longer lick a stamp, but you can lick a Postal worker?

Posted by: sasquatchbigfoot | February 11, 2011 2:40 PM | Report abuse

#1 Why are postal employees being given government credit cards in the first place? What is the purpose? Deliver the mail and make sure it gets there, end of story.

#2 I am glad to see it cut the traveling budget, but once again why does it spend 100 million on travel? Where are these postmen going?

Posted by: Jsuf | February 11, 2011 2:42 PM | Report abuse

$600k against a multi-billion hole? Drop in the bucket, and how much it cost to do the auditing?

Here's the real cost:

1) What is the morale in the office like when the bosses are expensing strip clubs and expensive hotels? How hard will that staff work for the USPS? Particularly given their extreme budget pressure right now.
2) How many staff have been fired? Fixing the organization and improving morale depends on cleaning house.
3) How much time on the clock did these guys/gals spend orchestrating their extra-curricular activities?
4) Why is the management structure not catching these abuses?

Like I said, it's sad that they had to bring in an outside auditor to find abuses the management structure should have caught in the first place.

Posted by: West_Seattle | February 11, 2011 2:44 PM | Report abuse

B u g f a r t. This is less than nothing. Has nothing to do with why the USPS is losing money. Most firms would be psyched if they bled $1.00 PER WORKER. I can guarantee you, in this case, the investigation cost more than the loss. Well done, and of course they should tighten things up, but the huffing and puffing is out of place.

Posted by: Godfather_of_Goals | February 11, 2011 2:54 PM | Report abuse

The USPS is going broke because there are better, cheaper ways to communicate...Let the marketplace prevail, and consider letting the USPS fly alone without Federal subsidy and rate regulation...

Posted by: StanHunts | February 11, 2011 3:08 PM | Report abuse

First of all the bill wasn't given to American taxpayers, but USPS customers. There is a difference. Secondly, the article says postal workers, I doubt they were workers at all, but managers and supervisors. There is a big difference there too. The postal service does not need to do retraining, just send a memo. If management employees can't read or know right from wrong, they should be fired. No one will notice their departure anyway and the USPS will save a lot of money.

Posted by: dar973 | February 11, 2011 3:10 PM | Report abuse

These workers do not need credit cards at all, so what's the problem, cancel each and every one.

Posted by: citigreg | February 11, 2011 3:14 PM | Report abuse

Looks like the post office stole a page from Barney Frank. What is good for the goose is good for the gander. Such a shame and virtually no consequences.

Posted by: gupton1 | February 11, 2011 3:21 PM | Report abuse

If the post office isn't using federal funds -- why is this story on the federal page???

Posted by: TommyMcGuire | February 11, 2011 3:31 PM | Report abuse

The USPS doing illegal stuff and costing the taxpayers money?? And not doing anything about it??? Well,well. I am less than shocked. I have personally had several major problems with the USPS; and, though I have written many letters of complaint (several of them registered letters to the big wigs in Washington), they have never done anything or even apologized for lost or stolen mail or items left out in the open (priority mail). So, stealing??? No surprise. Most of the employees are lazy and have the attitude that they "deserve" something due to their race. It is disgusting and appalling and no one is going to do anything due to the race factor.
The USPS should be disbanded and replaced by whoever can do a better job. Just about anyone, I guess.

Posted by: OccHealthNurse | February 11, 2011 3:31 PM | Report abuse

So this is why I sometimes simply don't get my mail, or get it very late in the day. These people aren't smart enough to read my street name and number.

Posted by: mirrorgazer | February 11, 2011 3:34 PM | Report abuse

In answer to jsuf's post above, quit being so generic. It's Postal Management, not 'postal employees' or 'postmen'.
And to west_seattle, same thing. There is no management structure to catch this stuff, cause it's lower level staff's responsibility, and it's upper management who are ringing up the expenses ("their entitlement")

Posted by: not1ofyou | February 11, 2011 3:42 PM | Report abuse

"In one case, a worker claimed 326 nights of hotel bills that exceeded government rates by $17,877"

Just what was his job? 326 nights in hotels out of 365 - he was only home 39 days for the entire year? He must have make a killing on the overtime, holiday, and weekend pay.

Posted by: bcullum1952 | February 11, 2011 3:55 PM | Report abuse

I worked for a Federal agency and I saw two incidents of employees who abused the system far less than that and they not only lost jobs and pensions but they went to jail. I would expect the same from the Post Office.

Posted by: withersb | February 11, 2011 3:55 PM | Report abuse

Is this REALLY worthy of a news article? I think not. And WaPo CONTINUES it's spiral decent down the porcelain throne.

Posted by: Bushwhacked1 | February 11, 2011 4:03 PM | Report abuse

Yawns 0.05% fraud in travel (600k in a 95 million budget). This is such a non story it is actually boring.

Call me when it actually get to at least 1%.

Posted by: dcinmd1 | February 11, 2011 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Is Ed O'Keefe a complete imbecile? It is obvious that he did not read the report. The report did not claim that there was "fraud" involved in any uses of these cards. Doesn't O'Keefe know that USPS has never used the GSA lodging rates? Doesn't O'Keefe know that the holders of the cards are entirely responsible for any charges on them and his charge that adult entertainment was "expensed" is laughably clueless because NOTHING CAN BE EXPENSED BY USE OF THESE CARDS?

Even worse than O'Keefe's clueless ravings is the fact that Senator Collins, "who closely tracks postal affairs," is not aware that the travel cards are personal credit lines for which the cardholder is solely responsible so it would be impossible for USPS to be responsible for even a red cent of it. Even more egregious than this is the fact the Senator Collins seems not to be aware that USPS is not funded by taxpayers whatsoever!

I am shocked at the abysmal level of journalistic integrity displayed by this hack O'Keefe and even more shocked at the clueless stupidity of Senator Collins. Do a little research - it might prevent you from making an abject fool of yourself.

Posted by: mycroftt | February 11, 2011 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Waste is waste and fraud is fraud but in the scheme of things even though the dollar amount is large when you consider the number of employees it's peanuts and not even a whole peanut:).

Posted by: rlj1 | February 11, 2011 4:27 PM | Report abuse

mycroftt:

You might try doing your own research before spouting off.

Start with the report itself, direct from the USPS Inspector General:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/48641113/Audit-Report-–-Compliance-With-Travel-Policies-and-Opportunities-for-Cost-Savings

Posted by: enzo2 | February 11, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

Or if that link doesn't work, try this one :

http://www.uspsoig.gov/foia_files/FF-AR-11-007.pdf

O'Keefe isn't the fool in this instance.

Posted by: enzo2 | February 11, 2011 4:40 PM | Report abuse

Why aren't these people being prosecuted for fraud? How did they get the cards in the first place? Why would postal officals need to have travel credit cards?
If you had a Office of General Accounting that responded to citizens who turn these people in for practices that lose the goverment money the practices would stop. I turned in the Immigration dept for failing to cash a check I sent them FOR SIX MONTHS! Nothing happened. My Republican State Representitive also knew of this and did nothing.
Why don't legislators respond to citizen complaints of poor service and questionable practices?
This isn't the stone age, don't agencies that investigate communicate?
The intrest on my money and they money of others would have gone a long way towards helping fund a responsive agency.
What business doesn't immediately cash checks? When citizens tell the Government something is wrong why is nothing done? We need responses to employee and citizen whistle blowers. That would cut down on government mis-deeds in a hurry. Who is to be contacted? Why do they do nothing?
If it's underfunding for investigation let's get some funding to investigate.

Posted by: Ellieturtle | February 11, 2011 4:43 PM | Report abuse

Most Government employees are forced to have a credit card whether they want it or not. I had one when I worked for DOD. The Government saves taxpayer dollars by floating travel expenses. Army required we charge everything, to include the cab trip to the airport. Sometimes the difficult part was getting paid from the Defense Finance and Accounting Center in time to pay the credit card bill. Several times I paid with my own money since I didn't have reimbursement. The credit card is in the employee's name so the employee's credit rating is adversely impacted if they don't pay on time. It isn't a good deal for the employee but who wants to put official travel expenses on their own credit card. Here and there, there are people who abuse the system but more times than enough, Government employees are floating a loan to the tax payers.

Posted by: helen_1946 | February 11, 2011 4:52 PM | Report abuse

Some people are good at kicking themselves out.

Posted by: rolandberger | February 11, 2011 5:14 PM | Report abuse

SO!


Posted by: whocares666 | February 11, 2011 5:58 PM | Report abuse

I have heard rumors that the United States

Post Office is bankrupt, and cannot

comprehend the reasoning. I kind of

prefer my USPO, because by tradition, it

is one of our institutions, in the same

manner as our Military. Is anyone game

to close our Military? I think not.

Then please do not close another one of

our traditions, but using logic to retain

the USPO, simply raise the prices on

everything, monitoring expenses. This is

a simple method even the monkies that are

running the USPO, can figure out unless

Political Correctness (PC) is interfering

with doing the right thing once again,

when the U.S. Government is involved, if

you follow. Stop making things more

difficult than they are, that is what

someone issued you a brain for, and I am

not talking about the Wizard of Oz. If

the USBP is operating in the red, then I

think that 435 Congressional members are

due for a reduction in annual salaries,

to account for the deficit, don't you?

I have recently read an article that one

of our illustrious congressman is

ramroding an investigation to prove that

our Military members are earning more than

other Federal employees. I'll bet

Steny Hoyer never wore the uniform, but

until he does, tell him to leave our

military in peace and pay them what they

are worth, or would Steny like to replace

and soldier or airman in Iraq or in

Afghanistan. The nerve of these ingrates

that roam the halls of congress. They

should be roaming the wild hills of the

United States instead, if you follow

Posted by: dennishabern1 | February 11, 2011 6:15 PM | Report abuse

Federal employees are issued credit cards as part of a contraact with the provider which says that the feds must use it on travel. The employee is responsible for paying the charges they incur. However, they are not supposed to use it for personal business. When TDY, they get per diem which is supposed to be used for food and lodging. If you eat cheap you have extra money to use for other things. Some have gone to adult places and used the ATMs which showed on the receipt where they spent their time. If was not illegal but shows a bad perception of what our employees were doing.

Posted by: Fonz4 | February 11, 2011 6:28 PM | Report abuse

I feel like I should be outraged.

In actuality, I'm laughing hysterically.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | February 11, 2011 7:24 PM | Report abuse

I think you were rather disingenuous with your reporting this time. You really framed it like this type of activity is commonplace in USPS government workers, and then you delved into the "what's being done to correct it." You cited the worst of the worst, but you made it sound like "everyone is doing it" playing off of the current anti-government worker sentiment that plagues our nation.

Yet one more tic mark on my board of disenchantment with the WaPo.

Posted by: trambusto | February 11, 2011 7:44 PM | Report abuse

I'm not so sure how the USPS could have lost money on misuse of charge cards - the bill goes to the employee, not the organization. I'm not USPS, but we're expected to pay the bill on time whether we've gotten reimbursed or not. If Uncle is late on the expense voucher, I loan him the money for a while. Isn't that nice? I'd rather not have a Government card at all, but they make us take them and require their use for travel because the card company pays a rebate on the amounts charged. (Not to us - to the US of A.)

Posted by: A_Reader | February 11, 2011 10:16 PM | Report abuse

For those of you who have used this story as a launching pad to call for the elimination of the postal service because it is no longer as necessary as it once was, I would just draw to your attention that every time the USPS is poised to rightsize itself (e.g. 5 day service), Congress gets in the way. I think there is still a place for a national post service, but, obviously, it is going to have less demand given e-mail, other forms of e-communications, and cream-skimming operations like FedEx and UPS. I am grateful to be able to rely on USPS when I need them.

We've got a lot of people out there screaming about limiting Government operations to functions expressly articulated in the Constitution. To them I say: "The Congress shall have Power . . .To establish Post Offices and post Roads ...."

I also agree with the many Feds who observe that, for most Feds, if not Postal, the only person liable on a Government credit card is the employee. While one can misuse the card for unofficial purposes, the employee still gets stuck with the bill. So, it's a violation of USPS travel policy, but in all but the most unusual circumstances, does not wind up costing USPS anything. In short, it would probably make a good disciplinary case, but it's hardly the stuff for a news article. USPS and its IG even admit it has been generally undetected to date because of the lack of delinquencies.

Posted by: finserra | February 12, 2011 12:19 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps, sometime, one of these articles could explain the how the government credit card program is totally ridiculous.

The cards are issued in the name of the employee and the bill comes to the employee. The employee is expected file expense vouchers with the government and to pay the credit card bill when it comes, whether the employee has been reimbursed for covered expenses or not. In short, the credit card works as if it's the employee's personal credit card. Is it any real surprise when, once in a while, someone uses one the the cards for a personal expense? If the bills were sent to the government in the first place, all nonsense use of the cards would stop. The government could track their use and people would be less likely to use them for things like strip club bills.

Posted by: John991 | February 12, 2011 3:11 AM | Report abuse

Enzo2: Read the report, man. Then read O'Keefe's outrageous and clueless claim that items were "expensed." It is not only untrue, it is also impossible to expense anything using the travel cards. There is no allegation that staying at lodging that did comply with GSA guidelines is wrong - USPS is not subject to those guidelines. The report claims that money could be saved if USPS adopted those guidelines. Those travel cards are personal lines of credit for which the cardholder is entirely responsible - USPS makes direct payments to cover certain uses including lodging and car rentals if approved by the approving official. Other charges do not go before approving officials and are paid by the cardholder. For example, USPS would approve a payment for a hotel room but not for room service or movie rentals or things like that which are the sole responsibility of the card holder. Obviously you are as unfamiliar with the issue as O'Keefe and you do not understand what you are reading. It is improper to use the cards for purposes other than official travel but it isn't fraudulent because USPS is not paying for it. Learn a little bit about the process and the regulations, then read the report and O'Keefe's clueless rant again. You can not disagree with even a single point I make.

Posted by: mycroftt | February 12, 2011 10:02 AM | Report abuse

I agree with mycroftt. I read the report and it supports what he's saying. There is no claim of fraud, just misuse. The card holders, not the Postal Service, are responsible for paying their credit card bills. If they buy goods or services that is against postal policy, it is not fraud unless they put these transactions on a travel voucher.

It's clear that Intrepid Reporter O'Keefe did not read it very carefully, but just looked for some zingers for a good headline. Had he done the work of a good journalist, he would have put this in perspective that the OIG would not. He would also have pointed out that Sen. Collins was wrong on both counts when she said: "It is unconscionable that these charges were rung up and the bill sent to the American taxpayers." It's bad enough that Collins is unaware of who pays these charges -- the cardholder, not the USPS -- but her ignorance in thinking that "taxpayers" fund the Postal Service is astonishing. Thanks for the clarification, O'Keefe.

The OIG was disingenuous for criticizing the Postal Service for "exceeding government lodging rates," because they KNOW that the Postal Service is not bound to those rates. When they can, Postal employees are supposed to try to get the government rate for lodging, but they are not always available for where an employee needs to stay. But, like O'Keefe, the OIG needs a good story line, and is not always integral in pursuing it.

Finally, trambusto is right on. For the size of the Postal Service -- nearly 600,000 employees -- this is minute, insignificant. And, wow, did the OIG come up with some good potential savings for the Postal Service: $600K. Let's see, that's 0.001% of the Postal budget. Terrific opportunity.

It's ironic that the OIG is planning on spending over TEN THOUSAND times that amount on renovating its headquarters. And who foots that bill? The Postal Service. Even though Congress mandated the OIG, it forces the Postal Service to pay for it. It sure isn't getting its money's worth. Nor am I from the Washington Post (I do subscribe).

Posted by: cozmot | February 12, 2011 10:07 AM | Report abuse

This is embarrassing, dead and former workers with credit cards, but $300,000 in savings per year when they're losing $8,500,000,000 per year? It's like bailing the Titanic with a kid's sand pail.

Posted by: caribis | February 12, 2011 10:41 AM | Report abuse

The issues about paying for expenses don't have anything to do with the Post Office's fiscal condition. Nor do they particularly have to do with what was charged on a government provided credit card. For any government agency or business it is important to have standards for reimbursing employee travel expenses. Generally, employees should pay for their own entertainment adult or otherwise. Certainly, they should only be reimbursed for expenses that have to do with a work related activity. A typical large business pattern is to have standard meal allowances based on geography, constraints on reimbursable hotel rates, and negotiated rates with major hotel chains. Charging private expenses on employer credit cards should be discouraged. But what really counts is who pays the charge. Government or employer payments should depend on an accounting of employee expenses that are constrained within the bounds set by employer policies.

Posted by: dnjake | February 12, 2011 11:08 AM | Report abuse

I understand the Post Office wants to cut Saturday delivery in order to save money. Maybe, it should cut "adult entertainment" expenses instead and every moron employee who watches it.

Posted by: tenfortynineAM | February 12, 2011 11:49 AM | Report abuse

I am going to take issue with conclusions here while still unclear about the facts. The federal government reimburses travel conducted by its employees. Some time ago the Feds and Congress whipped up this idea about issuing employees government travel cards. The employee's travel was still only reimbursed at approved government rates. So if an employee rented a room for $150.00 and the government reimbursement rate for the area is $100.00 then the employee was reimbursed $100.00 and had to make up the difference from his personal funds, $50.00. All sorts of issues have been created by this stupid decision to issue government credit cards by Sen Collins and other Yahoos. It is not the governments business how I conducted my personal life when not performing official duties. If I want to rent the bridal suite, so be it as long as my funds make up the difference between approved rate and cost.

Posted by: dwinstone1 | February 12, 2011 1:34 PM | Report abuse

Good gawd, tenfortynineAM, have you read NOTHING here? A few employees charging adult entertainment to their travel cards costs the Postal Service NOTHING. Not a dime. This is a non-issue regarding the Postal Service's financial state. If you care to read anything beyond what O'Keefe writes and misleads you with, you can learn something. But, then, you probably watch Fox all the time. Same as reading O'Keefe.

Posted by: cozmot | February 12, 2011 3:40 PM | Report abuse

mycroft:

try again:

From the report -

Lodging rate:

"Postal Service employees continued to exceed the prevailing government lodging
rates. The U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General (OIG) also reported this
issue in FY 2009.2 Of the 155,104 lodging transactions we reviewed,3 21,691 exceeded the government lodging rate. Postal Service policy requires travelers to obtain the government rate for official lodging."

Use for things other than official travel:

"Title 39, Section 410 of the U.S. Code gives the Postal Service the authority to establish its own travel policy. The Postal Service sets forth its travel policies for employees that travel for official business and their approving officials in Handbook F-15. Employees must comply with the policies stated in Handbook F-15...... Handbook F-15 clearly states that employees may not use their
official government travel card for personal business."

"......our audit found employees were frequently unaware of what the established government rate was when they obtained lodging and did not verify whether the rate they secured exceeded the
government rate. Some of the occurrences we noted included:

 One employee claimed 326 lodging nights for reimbursement over a 20-month period that, in total, exceeded the prescribed government lodging rates by
$17,877.
 Postal Service employees claimed lodging charges for reimbursement for the
2009 and 2010 National Postal Forums that exceeded the prescribed government lodging rates by $88,983.
 Two employees on an extended detail assignment for the majority of FY 2009 charged a total of $11,000 over the prescribed government lodging rates."

"Overall, we identified more than $349,317 in inappropriate purchases and cash
advances made from October 2008 through September 2010."

"Employees Misused Travel Credit Cards
We reviewed travel card usage for 27415 employees with high-risk transactions and found that 173 misused their government travel cards by purchasing items for personal use and taking cash advances unrelated to official travel, including the following:
 Three employees purchased airfare tickets, including tickets to Spain and Italy,
for family and friends.
 One employee purchased an Apple computer and paid his mortgage.
 One employee used his government issued travel card more than 50 times at
adult entertainment establishments."
----
As you can see, while the employee is responsible for paying off the travel credit card balance, the policy as outlined in Handbook 15 states that they are to be used solely for USPS travel expenses. It is when the employee uses the card for personal purchases (and gets the discounted prices that USPS gets) that "fraud" occurs, even if the employee pays for those purchases.

Whether or not the employee gets reimbursed by the USPS for legitimate credit card charges is not the issue, nor addressed in the report.

Next time, try reading before spouting off.

Posted by: enzo2 | February 12, 2011 6:28 PM | Report abuse

We submitted a request for a mortgage quote and received 3 great offers at "123 Mortgage Refinance". Thank you for helping us lower our house payment with 3.14% mortgage refinance rate. Highly recommend and best place for mortgage refinance.

Posted by: kimtyler133 | February 13, 2011 3:15 AM | Report abuse

"#1 Why are postal employees being given government credit cards in the first place? What is the purpose? Deliver the mail and make sure it gets there, end of story.

#2 I am glad to see it cut the traveling budget, but once again why does it spend 100 million on travel? Where are these postmen going?

Posted by: Jsuf | February 11, 2011 2:42 PM"

Like others have said BFD on all except the porn. Some of these "charges" depend on definitions. Especially the one about exceeding posted rates.
#1 Posted rates are routinely exceeded in the Army. With a waiver.

#2 They are going to meetings and training events to better serve us.

Yes clean up the postal service, cancel the cc of the deceased, but don't report 0.7% of POSSIBLE misuse as alarming.

Posted by: gemniii | February 13, 2011 8:03 AM | Report abuse

enzo2: Yeah I know. I read the report. You are not familiar with the travel policy so you are misunderstanding the findings. Allow me to clear up the part that the report does not make clear. USPS does not use the "prevailing government lodging rates" as guidelines - it never has. The finding is saying that USPS should look at adopting those guidelines as a potential way to cut travel expenses - it is not saying that employees are doing anything wrong by not following those guidelines. They are not doing anything wrong - they are following the guidelines of the agency.

The report documents a lot of instances of using the cards for personal purchasing and it correctly states that these are improper uses of the card. That is indisputable. It does not, however, claim that these misuses cost USPS anything because they do not - the employee is responsible for paying for purchases made on those cards. It does not claim that there is fraud because there is not. When there is no loss there is no fraud just as there is no theft when nothing is taken. Your claim to the contrary is dubious at best.

Neither you nor Mr. O'Keefe understands how these cards are used and that is the source of your false conclusions. O'Keefe's claim that people can expense personal purchases by use of these cards is preposterous and your concurrence demonstrates your unfamiliarity with the issues.

I should point out that I am a certified approving official on travel vouchers and was formerly an administrator of IMPAC/SmartCard accounts (abuse of which WOULD be fraudulent expensing of personal purchases). I am familiar enough to fully comprehend the findings, indeed I could have written them, and you clearly are arguing points you do not understand.

I should also point out that during the more than 8 years I spent in a travel status during my career I mistakenly misused the travel card twice - both times because I selected a less costly option in an effort to save the agency money. Once I selected a flight that was less costly than the government-rate flights that were available and once I made a retail purchase of food at a supermarket rather than spending more for a meal at a restaurant or taking a cash advance to make the retail food purchase (paying a 3% fee for cash advances). Both were rookie mistakes but were part of the learning curve associated with the Byzantine federal travel rules.

Posted by: mycroftt | February 13, 2011 11:54 AM | Report abuse

mycroft:

Is there something about the sentence " Postal Service policy requires travelers to obtain the government rate for official lodging." as stated by the report that you do not understand?

( That sentence is footnoted with : "4 Handbook F-15, Travel and Relocation, Section 4-1.1.2, dated February 2004 (updated with Postal Bulletin
revisions through January 28, 2010).)

The report IS saying that it needs to make that requirement more clear, but it also states unequivocably that using the government rates is a REQUIREMENT.

Apparently you weren't as good at your job as you would like to think.

i will agree, however, that as long as the employee doesn't try to expense personal expenses that he/she isn't committing that type of fraud, and as such O'Keefe is incorrect to quote it as such (you might note that the report also does not claim that employees DIDN'T try to expense personal charges). However, IT IS STILL CONSIDERED MISUSE OF THE CARD to use it for personal items.

Posted by: enzo2 | February 13, 2011 6:07 PM | Report abuse

First of all lets make this very clear, these are NOT workers these are MANAGERS! Managers who are abusing the system exactly what I've been writing about in your column for months! But no one wants tolisten.It's about time someone speaks up.But does anyone hear? This does not surprise me one bit,porn, credit card fraud keep digging you WILL find more.Sexual harrassment swept under the rug. Managers physically fighting on the job, and getting their jobs back. (That wouldn't happen to an employee, you would be marched out and never return!)Managers flirting with other employees.(Then they "mysteriously" getting certain priviledges). You just had an article about people taking "advantage" of workers compensation, those people were injured on the job and deserve that pay. Do these managers deserve to buy gifts for their relatives on the p.o.'s credit card? Expensive foreign trips? How about fancy dinners? Expensive lodging? Porn? First class travel? Instead of picking on the "working man" someone needs to watch whats happening behind closed doors. Your other article said that there were some people "past" retirement age receiving workers comp? What is retirement age? There is no "mandatory" retirement age. Thats called "age discrimination". But, now they find that 53 credit cards are still issued to dead managers! One manager charged OVER $17,000 what s/he should have. I'd like to know what else s/he charged? One office in Washington OVER $89,000 If they can get away with that for years, there obviously is MORE to the story and MOREto the BILLS than what they are telling us. I WANT TO KNOW THE WHOLE TRUTH! The p.o. is negoiating the APWU contracts now, letting DISABLED people go, and reducing hours because they say they don't have the money. Baloney! Stop giving managers free access to their own private p.o. credit card. How about a little oversight! ENRON RING A BELL?

Posted by: fedup100 | February 14, 2011 11:17 AM | Report abuse

enzo2: The USPS travel handbook states that employees are to use the government rate, referring to the government rate offered by the property in which they are staying. It is not necessarily the same number as the GSA-published per diem lodging rate. USPS pays actual lodging expenses rather than the GSA rate. So if the hotel offers a government rate of $220 when the GSA per diem lodging amount is $211, USPS will pay the actual expense.

USPS also does not follow GSA guidelines on when a receipt is required, and does not use the GSA schedule for POV reinbursement, or incidental expense per diem (although USPS' schedules are usually either the same or very close to those of GSA).

Posted by: mycroftt | February 14, 2011 12:18 PM | Report abuse

okay so lets see...600K in travel expense at no cost to the US Taxpayeror USPS and no law broken. By comparrison... The US Taxpayer was just hit with a 1 MILLION dollar bottled water bill for the HOUSE OF REP's and the 600k is less than 4 top congressional aides. Thats right the guy who gets a cup of coffee and writes a day in the day planner for your congressmen. Don't forget Massa D-NY less than 7 months in office and his top aide got a raise to bring his TAXPAYER salry to $165,000 a year. Are we seriously blasting the Post office here?

Posted by: Brian417 | February 14, 2011 1:48 PM | Report abuse

mycroft:

Once again, direct from the report:

"Postal Service employees continued to exceed the prevailing government lodging
rates. (footnote 1)

(footnote) "1 - The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) establishes federal lodging per diem rates."

So, the "government rates" the report speaks of are indeed GSA established rates.

Try again.

Posted by: enzo2 | February 14, 2011 4:20 PM | Report abuse

enzo2: OK - I can see that you are not going to admit your unfamiliarity with the USPS policy. USPS does not use the GSA rates because they are not required by law to use them. You are dead wrong when you conclude that USPS has to use those rates, because it does not. Read the Travel Handbook citation again - it says that the government rate must be used but it absolutely does not say that the GSA rates must be used. The government rate is whatever rate is quoted by the hotel as the government rate. When the limited number of rooms that they offer at government rates are taken, the government rate they quote is the same rate as other discounted rates and that is the rate that USPS pays. It is stated repeatedly in the Travel Handbook that the actual costs are covered. You just don't know what you are talking about here. I can tell that you are not a federal employee because you do not seem to be aware that not all agencies are subject to GSA guidelines, and USPS is one of them as I proved beyond a shadow of a doubt when I pointed out that the POV reimbursement schedule used by USPS is sometimes different than the GSA rates (they are different right now, in fact) and when I pointed out that the receipting rules are also different. The findings in the report are that the USPS official policy is more costly than the GSA policy and I have no reason to doubt that, but claiming that there is something improper about staying in a room just because the cost exceeds GSA guidelines is patently untrue. You are wrong and I'm sorry I can not state that any other way. The law is just not on your side this time.

Posted by: mycroftt | February 14, 2011 5:55 PM | Report abuse

mycroft:

At question is the written word of the report, it's analysis, O'Keefes analysis, your cranking on him over his reporting of that report, and nothing else.

I would tend to assume that the USPS Inspector General and his(her?) staff know the USPS requirements better than you, so when he states in the report that USPS employees are required to go for GSA rates, I would have a tendency to believe them to a much greater degree than an anonymous poster such as yourself.

It is also the written word of the report that O'Keefe bases his post.

If the report states that GSA rates are a requirement (which it does), then your taking O'Keefe to task over it is rather misplaced.

Maybe you are one of the (ex?) employees who aren't familiar enough with USPS rate policy that they are talking about?

Posted by: enzo2 | February 14, 2011 8:38 PM | Report abuse

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