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Review scolds U.S. Central Command over purchases, records

TAMPA — U.S. Central Command received a mild rebuke in a Pentagon inspector general's preliminary report that found inappropriate or mishandled credit card purchases for items ranging from commemorative coins to cigar boxes.

The Jan. 25 report said CentCom "wasted funds by procuring prohibited items" and risked their loss or theft by not documenting them in inventory records. CentCom, headquartered at MacDill Air Force Base, is the lead command for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The report describes a technical violation of purchasing procedures and does not accused anyone at CentCom of buying items for personal use. CentCom said all the purchases had a legitimate purpose.

"These are all relatively minor purchases," Army Lt. Col. Michael Lawhorn, a CentCom spokesman, said Thursday. "That doesn't mean they aren't important. Taxpayers have a right to expect that we will be good stewards of their money and we intend to fulfill our obligations to do that."

He said the command has taken corrective steps.

The credit card program, which is overseen by officials at MacDill's 6th Air Mobility Wing, allows authorized personnel at CentCom to buy items worth less than $3,000 at private vendors or stores without competitive bids.

The IG examined a tiny slice of the $7.9 million in purchases made by CentCom in the fiscal year ending July 1, 2009. Of the nearly 7,000 purchases in that time frame, the IG examined 120 and found 10 of those were "inappropriate."

One example is the $4,230 in commemorative coins, which CentCom's commander hands out as rewards to personnel as he travels around the world. The IG said Pentagon rules do not allow the purchase of such coins through the credit card program.

And the IG report, expected to be finalized later this year, said CentCom also violated program rules by splitting this and other purchases — using two credit card transactions to get around a $3,000 limit on purchases.

The report said other items bought with the credit cards were appropriate because they were acquired with funds set aside to buy gifts for distinguished citizens or foreign dignitaries. The cigar boxes, 25 clocks and 40 pen sets were bought for those purposes, the report said.

But the cigar boxes and other items were not recorded in inventory, risking their loss or theft, the report said. And the pens and clocks were purchased in another split transaction.

Other items that were not recorded in inventory included two Kawasaki utility vehicles called Mules worth $20,000 and $9,000 in GPS systems.

The report also noted it initially questioned the purchase of three televisions for the "new commander's office" because of a lack of supporting documentation. The TVs cost $2,100. The report does not identify that commander.

But records were later found and the TVs were deemed a legitimate expense.

The report noted officials at the 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill — a separate command from CentCom — failed to ensure that those using the cards had undergone proper training. The wing has since taken appropriate steps to fix that issue.

William R. Levesque can be reached at levesque@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3432.

Review scolds U.S. Central Command over purchases, records 01/27/11 [Last modified: Thursday, January 27, 2011 10:14pm]
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