Federal employees who are issued so-called purchase cards are permitted to spend up to $3,000 — known as “micropurchases” — and do not have to disclose those purchases publicly.
A House Oversight subcommittee held a congressional hearing earlier this month on misuses of the government credit card, asking why federal employees were swiping the card for seemingly personal things like hair cuts, gym memberships and movie tickets.
Scott MacFarlane, investigative reporter at NBC-4 Washington, discovered through Freedom of Information Act requests, that Department of Homeland Security employees put $30,000 of Starbucks on the cards in 2013. Agency employees spent about $12,000 at one Starbucks in Alameda, Calif., and several of those purchases were for just under the $3,000 “micropurchase” threshold, which means they can avoid scrutiny.
“I don’t know the agency’s needs or contingencies, but going to Starbucks seems like a really hard sell,” former Inspector General for the U.S. General Services Administration Brian Miller told MacFarlane in an interview.