Audit finds odd expenses on Homeland Security's dime

| 7/19/2006

Beer making equipment, iPods, and dog booties. What do these three items have in common?

Well, according to a new audit from the Government Accountability Office, they are all items that are essential in the day-to-day operation of the Homeland Security Department.

Or, at least, that’s what the employees of the department seemed to think when they purchased those items with Homeland Security-issued credit cards in 2005.

The Associated Press reported that the audit found that Homeland Security employees racked up $435 million in expenses on their government-issued cards in 2005, compared with $296 million in 2004.

Much of those expenses came in the months surrounding Hurricane Katrina.

The audit found that employees spent more than $68,000 on 2,000 sets of dog booties for search and rescue dogs. No problem there, except that the booties were the wrong kind and have since been sitting unused in storage facilities.

In addition, employees purchased 12 Apple iPod Nanos and 42 iPod Shuffles for Secret Service training and data storage, The AP reported.

More expenses, such as beer making equipment, designer rain jackets and hotel rooms at a golf and tennis resort on St. Simons Island in Georgia, were also described as abusive and questionable.

And, as if that weren’t enough, the audit found that 107 laptops, 22 printers and two GPS units worth $170,000 are unaccounted for. A dozen boats purchased by the Federal Emergency Management Agency have also gone missing, according to The AP.

A Homeland Security spokesman told The AP that the department will begin enforcing new spending guidelines within the next several weeks and that violators of the guidelines could have their cards taken away, be forced to repay expenses and face other disciplinary action.

The audit blamed the abuses on poor training, lack of oversight and confusion over what employees are allowed to buy with the cards.