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Personal use of government credit cards a risky business

18 Dec 2000 | Sgt. Todd Greenwood

Shopping is as much a part of the holiday season as having a tree or downing egg nog, but ultimately the festivities must be paid for, and when it comes to government credit cards, the Department of Defense policy on authorized use is clear - your personal purchases had better not be on a government credit card.

According to GySgt. Greg Ulmer, Air Station Disbursing staff non-commissioned officer-in-charge, although the delinquency on Marine Corps government credit card transactions has fallen over the past seven months, there has been an increase during this holiday season.

"Although we can't know for sure, that increase could be due to temptation during the holidays to abuse the privilege of having a government credit card," said Ulmer.
According to Maj. Diane Futch, Air Station comptroller, although abuses of credit card privileges are rare, checks and balances exist to help guard against abuses.
"We are very fortunate here -- Marines and civilians who are part of the government credit card program are rarely abusers of the privilege," said Futch.

"We have a checks and balances program that acts as insurance. We're able to actually keep track of charges on a card as they are incurred," added Futch. "The Agency Program Center (APC) manager, or appointed personnel at admin or Disbursing can quickly verify whether charges have been made, where they have been made and if the nature of the charge may be questionable in light of any orders the Marine is under."

According to LtCol. C.J. St.George, Marine Aircraft Group 31 S-1 officer-in-charge, MAG-31 is combating unauthorized uses by a program of education.

"We've instituted programs such as the government travel card to maximize ease of payments and minimize financial hardships that may temporarily affect our Marines as they conduct TAD's," said St. George.  "Unfortunately, programs that provide more flexibility for our Marines also require a greater amount of responsibility because the opportunity for misuse of these cards goes hand-in-hand with ease of use. While we have approximately a 4 percent misuse rate in the MAG, misuses that do occur can only be reduced through education and accountability from the commands to help ensure compliance from the card holders."

As a companion to educating Marines and Sailors on the authorized uses and penalties for unauthorized use, MAG-31 will review expenditures for the month of December in detail.

"The APC will be carefully reviewing his December statement for purchases from vendors such as local retailers, and anyone showing such purchases will be reported to his Sergeant Major or CO."

According to Air Station SgtMaj. Carl Smith, abuse of government credit card privileges can result in disciplinary action.   

"We don't want to see any of our Marines damage or lose careers because of inattention to the regulations on the use of these cards,"said Smith. "It's simple enough - if the purchase isn't strictly for Marine Corps business, don't make it."

For more information on government credit cards, authorized uses and payment deadline requirements, phone the Air Station Disbursing Office at 228-7770, Depot Disbursing at 228-2291 or the Naval Hospital's Disbursing Office at 228-5354.