According to U.S. Bank, Department of Transportation (DOT) employees made more than 1.1 million travel card transactions—totaling $180 million—in calendar year 2019. In 2014, we reported on internal control weaknesses in the Department’s travel card program and found that excessive or unauthorized cash advances and instances of travel card misuse sometimes went undetected because DOT lacked robust internal controls to prevent these transactions. In addition, our annual charge card risk assessments disclosed areas that constitute risk to the Department’s charge card program such as outdated and incomplete policies, overdue travel card training, and a travel card account that remained active after a travel cardholder (TCH) separated from the Agency. As a result, we determined that another audit of this program was needed. Accordingly, our objective was to determine whether DOT’s internal controls for its travel card program are effectively designed and operating efficiently to prevent and detect travel card misuse and abuse.
What We Found
We identified internal control weaknesses that prohibit DOT from preventing or detecting the inappropriate use of travel cards. These weaknesses have resulted in TCHs not consistently following existing controls, increasing the risk of travel card misuse and abuse. Specifically, based on our findings for 71 of the 793 travel card transactions in our samples, TCHs did not always follow prescribed controls for an estimated $18.6 million in purchases. Furthermore, we found that TCHs did not use their Government travel cards to pay for $28 million in official travel related expenses, thus preventing DOT from receiving the total amount of rebates it would be eligible to receive.
We made 11 recommendations to assist DOT in increasing the effectiveness of its internal controls. DOT fully concurred with the all of our recommendations, and we consider them resolved but open pending completion of the planned actions.
No. 1 to OST
Notify all travel card program participants that advance written approval must be obtained prior to incurring any travel expenses.
No. 2 to OST
Develop and implement a plan for Agency/Organization Program Coordinator to identify travel authorizations that were not submitted or approved prior to the incurrence of official travel-related expenses. The plan should include follow-up with cardholders and approvers on instances where noncompliance is identified.
No. 3 to OST
Update DOT's travel card management policy, DOT Order 15006.b, and DOT travel card training to include guidance on how cardholders should recover travel card account overpayments.
No. 4 to OST
Develop and implement a control that will allow the Department to identify questionable travel card transactions outside of the delinquency report review that is performed by the operating administrations.
No. 5 to OST
Expand existing training for managers and Approving Officials to incorporate a proper voucher review.
No. 6 to OST
Notify all travel cardholders that cash withdrawals must not occur more than 3 days prior to an authorized trip.
No. 7 to OST
Strengthen current cash-advance controls to test cardholder compliance with cash advances and require follow-up with cardholders when instances are detected.
No. 8 to OST
Design and implement a control to test that cardholders are using the travel card to pay only for official travel expenses as required. The control should include follow-up with cardholders when charges unrelated to official travel are detected.
No. 9 to OST
Modify training materials to emphasize the required use of the travel card for all expenses related to official travel.
No. 10 to OST
Develop and implement controls to require that refresher training is administered timely in electronic learning management system, and require that cardholders complete refresher training in a timely manner.
No. 11 to OST
Modify the current travel card application process to include a manager certification as required by the DOT travel card management policy.