Fed Workers Helped Themselves to More Than $1M in Charitable Contributions Meant for the Poor: Audit

Federal workers and a contractor helped themselves to more than $1 million in charitable contributions to fund personal luxuries, including massages and pricey lunches, according to a recent government audit.

Referring to themselves as “volunteers,” government workers involved in spending the cash said they needed “motivation” as they administered “just one local chapter of the government’s annual workplace charity drive, the Combined Federal Campaign,” the Washington Examiner reported.

The report added that many of the workers identified in the audit also arrived at two separate events, one in New Orleans and one in Las Vegas, a day early, stayed a day late, ordered out and enjoyed hotel Pay-Per-View services — all with donated funds.

The workers were also apparently defensive of their spending habits when questioned by auditors.

“They claimed that restrictions on spending for things like first-class flights didn’t apply to donated funds because taxpayer money was not involved,” the Washington Examiner reported.

Further, for the entire time that many of the federal workers, referred to as “loaned executives,” took time away from their normal duties to “volunteer” for the Combined Federal Campaign, they still received their full salaries and were exempt from having to perform the duties that they were hired to do in the first place.

The Combined Federal Campaign, the report added, is under the control of the Office of Personnel Management. Regional committees staffed with federal workers administer it.

“Each of the committees contract with an outside nonprofit group to do most of the work, paying expenses out of the donations,” according to the report. “Federal agencies detail hundreds of employees from their regular duties to work at CFC contractor offices, all at taxpayer expense.”

In one audit from 2012, investigators found that a Combined Federal Campaign chapter based in Alexandria, Virginia, maintained some 132 staffers, including 41 “loaned executives” who were all receiving full-time salaries.

The audit “identified $764,069 in expenses that could have been put to better use for the campaigns,” including a “private box at the stadium where the Washington Nationals play,” “jazz band costs at a leadership conference,” a Mardi Gras tour, and a “Washington by Night Tour for the Loaned Executives,” the Washington Examiner reported.

The chapter identified by auditors also received reimbursement for “unreasonable, unallowable, or unsupported expenses” amounting to approximately $300,000.

“Those consisted of a torrent of petty offenses, including expensing personal dry cleaning bills, gift shop purchases, travel to an awards banquet unrelated to the CFC, and an $80 flower gift to an employee,” the report added. “Global Impact held two-week training conferences at hotels in the tony Georgetown section of D.C., and flew its workers to conferences as well as in other cities known for being popular entertainment venues such as New Orleans, Orlando and Las Vegas.”

The questionable spending, expenses and reimbursements continued on through 2013.

An audit released last year stated bluntly that the Alexandria-based chapter “did not adhere to its responsibility to conduct a campaign aimed at maximizing the charitable contributions donated by civil servants and employees and members of the U.S. Military serving overseas.”

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