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Final passage of reform bill, controls on government charge cards PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Monday, 24 September 2012 14:56

Bill to Prevent Abuse of Government Charge Cards on Way to President’s Desk

WASHINGTON – A bill that will require federal agencies to put new controls on government charge cards and enforce more stringent penalties for violations by federal employees is on its way to the President for his signature, following final passage by Congress over the weekend.

The reform measure was sponsored by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Senator Susan Collins of Maine, and it first won Senate approval in July 2011.  The House of Representatives passed it during the summer.  The Senate needed to act again for final passage, which it did very early Saturday morning.

“This bill is about accountability,” said Grassley.  “The public trust has been violated by abusive use of government charge cards.  By putting some common-sense controls into the law, we can make certain the federal bureaucracy improves the way it responsibly manages the use of these cards.”

“Government charge cards create numerous efficiencies by allowing federal employees to make small, official purchases without a mound of paperwork.  But over the years, the Government Accountability Office and the Inspectors General have identified many examples of fraudulent or illegal use of these charge cards.   Even at the General Services Administration, which administers the charge card program for the entire federal government, a high-ranking employee was able to rack up tens of thousands of dollars in personal expenditures on a government charge card.  This legislation would impose stricter controls on charge cards to help reduce waste, fraud, and abuse.  It’s a common-sense way to keep the government accountable for taxpayer dollars,” said Lieberman.

“This bill would require agencies to ensure that purchase and travel cards are used only for approved spending and to take action for misuse of cards.  While purchase and travel cards have been important tools in meeting the government’s procurement needs in a timely and cost-efficient manner, their use often has been subject to some malfeasance and inappropriate purchases by individual card holders.  American taxpayers get the bill for these federal credit cards and they deserve complete assurance that their money is going to legitimate business purposes," said Collins.

The senators’ effort to codify new controls and penalties responds to outrageous accounts of purchases made with government charge cards, as well as independent analysis which found inadequate and inconsistent controls within government agencies.  At issue are purchase cards, which are used by authorized federal employees for small-scale items needed for official business, such as office supplies, as well as travel cards, which are issued to federal employees to pay for official travel expenses.  When purchase cards are misused, taxpayer money is wasted.  When travel cards are misused and the bills aren’t paid, the government risks losing millions of dollars in rebates.

Grassley has put the spotlight on problematic use of these cards for many years, first at the Department of Defense and then also at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Forest Service, the Federal Aviation Administration, and elsewhere.

Over the years, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office has documented fraudulent, questionable and overly expensive purchases made by federal workers with government purchase and travel cards, including kitchen appliances, jewelry, gambling, cruises, and even the tab at gentlemen’s clubs and legalized brothels.

Below is a summary of the reform legislation.  The Senate also had passed the reform measure in 2009, but it was never taken up by the House of Representatives

Summary of the Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act

The bill would require all federal agencies to establish certain safeguards and internal controls for government charge card programs, and to establish penalties for violations, including dismissal when circumstances warrant.  The bill would also increase oversight by providing that each agency Inspector General periodically conduct risk assessments and audits to identify fraud and improper use of government charge cards. These reforms are based on the experience of Grassley and other members of Congress, the GAO, and agency Inspectors General in investigating the weaknesses in agency policies and procedures that have lead to instances of waste, fraud, and abuse in government charge card programs.

The required safeguards and internal controls include:

  • performing credit checks for travel card holders and issuing restricted cards for those with poor or no credit to reduce the potential for misuse
  • maintaining a record of each cardholder, including single transaction limits and total transaction limits so agencies can effectively manage their cardholders
  • implementing periodic reviews to determine if cardholders have a need for a card
  • properly recording rebates to the government based on prompt payment, sales volume, etc.
  • providing training for cardholders and managers
  • utilizing effective systems, techniques, and technologies to prevent or catch fraudulent purchases
  • establishing specific policies about the number of cards to be issued, the credit limits for certain categories of cardholders, and categories of employees eligible to be issued cards
  • invalidating cards when employees leave the agency or transfer
  • establishing an approving official other than the purchase card holder so employees cannot approve their own purchases
  • reconciling purchase card charges on the bill with receipts and supporting documentation
  • reconciling disputed purchase card charges and discrepancies with the bank according to the proper procedure
  • making purchase card payments promptly to avoid interest penalties
  • retaining records of purchase card transactions in accordance with standard government record keeping polices
  • utilizing direct payments to the bank when reimbursing employees for travel card purchases to ensure that travel card bills get paid
  • comparing items submitted on travel vouchers with items already paid for with centrally billed accounts to avoid reimbursing employees for items already paid for by the agency
  • submitting refund requests for unused airline tickets so the taxpayers don’t pay for tickets that were not used
  • disputing unauthorized charges and tracking the status of disputed charges to proper resolution

 

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New Allegations Emerge of White House Involvement in Secret Service Prostitution Scandal PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Grassley Press   
Friday, 21 September 2012 14:51
WASHINGTON – In light of recent press reports of White House personnel involvement in the Colombia prostitution scandal that plagued the Secret Service last spring, Senator Chuck Grassley is pressing for answers to previous inquiries that the White House has ignored.

 

Grassley sent the White House a letter on April 23, 2012 asking questions about the review conducted by the Office of the White House Counsel into allegations of involvement of White House staffers in the prostitution scandal.  Grassley has yet to receive a response from the President.

 

In a new letter sent to the White House late yesterday, Grassley renewed his original request and posed several more questions, including inquiries about contacts that White House personnel has had with the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General conducting a review of the Secret Service’s involvement in the scandal.

 

Here is a copy of the text of Grassley’s letter.  A signed copy can be found here. The April 23, 2012 letter can be found here.

 

September 20, 2012

 

Via Electronic Transmission

 

Kathryn H. Ruemmler

Assistant to the President and White House Counsel

Office of the White House Counsel

Executive Office of the President

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington D.C., 20500

 

Dear Ms. Ruemmler:

 

I write to follow up on a letter dated April 23, 2012 (attached), that I sent to you regarding the
“review” conducted by the Office of the White House Counsel into allegations of the involvement of White House staffers in the prostitution scandal that occurred in Colombia in April 2012.  In my letter, I sought information in response to statements by the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, that your office had reviewed these allegations and concluded that there was “no indication of any misconduct” by White House staffers.[1] Mr. Carney failed to elaborate further about the “review” conducted by your office.

 

In my letter, I asked you detailed questions regarding how you conducted this “review” and what specific conclusions you drew about White House staff involvement in this scandal.  I have yet to receive a response.  However, the White House spokesman quickly told the public, without further explanation, that he was confident that there was no such involvement.

 

Now more allegations have arisen regarding White House personnel procuring prostitutes during the President’s trip to Colombia.  Yesterday, an article on Foxnews.com quoted an unnamed “high-ranking Secret Service official” as stating, “Three U.S. delegation members that stayed at the Hilton brought prostitutes back as overnight guests.  One of them was ours [Secret Service] and the other two were White House staffers.”[2] Furthermore, according to the article, multiple law enforcement sources speculate that the forthcoming report to be issued by the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General (DHS/OIG) has been delayed in order to cover up this involvement by White House staff.

 

Accordingly, I request you respond to my questions in the April 23 letter, and also respond to the following additional questions:

 

1.      Has the White House been in contact with the DHS/OIG? If so, what has been the nature of that contact?

 

2.      Has the White House seen a copy of the draft DHS/OIG report?  Whether or not the White House has seen a copy of the report, is the White House aware of the findings of the report, specifically regarding the allegations of involvement of White House staffers?

 

3.      Has the White House had any input into the drafting of the report, including providing edits to the final version? If so, provide information regarding the nature of the edits.

 

4.      Was any contact between the White House and the DHS/OIG, including review and editing of the report, responsible for the delay in the DHS/OIG’s meeting his target date of July 2, 2012 for release of the report?

 

5.      Has your office or any other office in the White House conducted a new review of the allegations in response to any findings by the DHS/OIG? If so, what did that new review consist of? What were its findings?

 

6.      Was the U.S. Secret Service aware of the alleged involvement of the White House staffers?  Have you been in contact with the U.S. Secret Service regarding these allegations? Has the U.S. Secret Service provided the DHS/OIG any information regarding these allegations?

 

7.      What will happen to these staffers if they are in fact found to have procured prostitutes while on official travel?

 

8.      If the report includes the findings that are being reported, how did your initial review fail to uncover the involvement of these staffers?  Do you concede that your initial review was performed in haste and without sufficient care?

 

9.      If the report includes the findings that are being reported, will Spokesman Carney issue a retraction or correction to his public comments denying any White House staff involvement?

 

Thank you for your prompt attention to this request. I would appreciate your response by September 27, 2012.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

Charles E. Grassley

Ranking Member

 

Attachment

 

[1] Steven T. Dennis. “WH Finds No Staff Involved in Secret Service Scandal.” Roll Call.   April 23, 2012.

 

2 Jana Winter, “Probe of Secret Service Prostitution Scandal May Cite White House Advance Staff Involvement,” Fox News.com, Sept. 19, 2012, available at http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/09/19/probe-may-cite-white-house-advance-team-involvement-in-prostitution-scandal/?test=latestnews.

 
Five Top Volunteers Honored by Community Foundation with 2012 Quad City Caring Awards PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Natalie Anderson   
Friday, 21 September 2012 14:27
BETTENDORF, Iowa – It was not easy for the citizen committee to select just 5 Quad City
Caring Award winners this year – a good problem to have.

“We wish we could give out 41 Caring Awards this year because each nominee was so great,”
said a reviewer.

In the end, five outstanding volunteers were selected who have demonstrated selflessness and
a long-term commitment to the betterment of our community, and whose efforts have made a
significant impact.

The 2012 Caring Award recipients are:
• Mark Bawden, nominated by the Putnam Museum / Giant Screen Theater
• Julia Field, nominated by Hand In Hand
• Greg Lundgren, nominated by the Davenport Public Library
• Tommy Miller, nominated by HELP Legal Assistance
• Travis “Rusty” Unterzuber, nominated by Quad City Arts

“The Caring Awards allow us to say a big thank you to dedicated volunteers who make a real
difference in our community,” said Susan Skora, President and CEO of the Community
Foundation of the Great River Bend.

Mark Bawden has helped to ensure the Putnam Museum will be available to citizens of the
Quad Cities for years to come. After 3 years serving as the Board of Trustees Chair, Mark
assumed the role of Chair for the Theater Task Force, and led the charge to raise $12 million to
construct the new Giant Screen Theater. In addition, Mark served as interim Museum Director,
Team Leader of the newest Sustainable Funding initiative, and is the current chairman of the
Development Committee. He and his wife Rita have invested personal and financial support in
the Putnam Museum to ensure the future of this local treasure is bright.

Julia Field is the recipient of the Youth Award, presented each year to an outstanding volunteer
under the age of 21. Hand In Hand CEO Mark Smith, describes Julia Field as “the cheerleader
which every organization needs.” Julia began volunteering at the nonprofit organization for
children with special needs in 2005, when she was in the second grade. She demonstrates a

natural ability to be compassionate and caring with the participants of Hand In Hand. This year,
Julia will take on the role of Student Director for the bowling program. This includes coordinating
weekly bowling schedules, recruiting volunteers, and planning the end of year bowling banquet.
In addition, Julia will continue her volunteer work during the summer camp program. Julia sees
and believes in the power of being the difference for others. The world is in good hands with
young leaders like Julia.

Greg Lundgren, a long-time supporter of the Davenport Public Library, has been a member of
the Davenport Public Library Board of Trustees since 1996. He served as President from 2000-
2006. During his time on the Board, Greg assisted in hiring a new Library Director and was a
primary advocate for the Library to the City Administration and City Councils for the Fairmount
and Eastern Avenue Branch Libraries. In addition, Greg served as the Chair of the Library’s
Building and Grounds Committee from 2004-2012. Greg’s passion and devotion to the
Davenport Public Library continues – he returned as President in July of this year.
Attorney Tommy Miller of Davenport has worked at law offices of HELP Legal Assistance since
the fall of 1979. She first joined as a volunteer, then as a staff attorney for more than twenty
years. After her retirement in 2004, Tommy again returned to HELP Legal Assistance as a
volunteer. Her work has spanned the full range of civil legal cases, from housing and consumer
work to complex education and family law matters. On a daily basis, she has helped thousands
of low-income and senior clients find the light of equal justice.

Travis “Rusty” Unterzuber joined Quad City Arts Board of Directors in 2007 and chose to
volunteer for the Performing Arts Committee, becoming chair of that committee in August 2009.
He and his wife, Doris, also volunteer at the Festival of Trees, Quad City Arts’ major fundraiser.
For years the couple has hosted an annual VAnguard Quad City Arts subscription series party
and invited a Visiting Artist to perform. The Visiting Artist Series brings professional performing
artists to our region for free or low-cost performances. In November 2011, Rusty took on the role
of interim Performing Arts Director. In addition, he oversaw the selection of Visiting Artists for
the 2013-2014 season. Quad City Arts has found a gem in the intellect, passion, and dedication
of Rusty Unterzuber.

The 2012 Quad City Caring Award winners will be recognized at the Community Foundation’s
Annual Celebration on September 25, 2012. The event will be held at the Waterfront Convention
Center in Bettendorf.

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A Message from State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Karen Austin   
Friday, 21 September 2012 14:15

DES MOINES, IA (09/20/2012)(readMedia)-- For families already busy juggling the demands of work and home, college planning might seem like the last thing to worry about. However, with the cost of a higher education rising faster than inflation, nearly every family will face the problem of how to pay for it when the time comes. Thankfully, the answer is quite simple – start saving today. By starting early, saving regularly and making smart investment choices, families can make their savings work for them – and College Savings Iowa is here to help.

In the past 35 years the cost of obtaining a college education has increased by 1,120 percent, which is four times faster than the consumer price index.* With continuing increases in the price of a college education, it is as important as ever to start saving early. Any amount, saved on a regular basis can grow into a substantial amount, which may help reduce the need to borrow to cover educational expenses.

College Savings Iowa, administered by the State Treasurer's Office, is a budget-friendly 529 plan that offers multiple investment choices, as well as significant federal and state tax benefits to help families grown their savings even more. An account can be started with as little as $25 and the assets can be used to pay for qualified higher education expenses at any eligible college, university, community college or accredited technical training school in the United States or abroad. Iowa state taxpayers can deduct up to $2,975 in contributions per beneficiary account from their 2012 adjusted gross income.**

As a way to help families start saving, we are celebrating College Savings Month throughout September and giving away a $5,290 College Savings Iowa account – our largest giveaway to date. For more information and to enter the giveaway, please visit www.my529iowaplan.com any time before November 30.

Don't forget...saving for college is an investment for a lifetime – opening the door to a world of opportunity for the children in your life. Start saving today and help make college a reality for them – you'll be glad you did! For more information about College Savings Iowa, visit www.my529iowaplan.com or call 888-672.9116.

*From Bloomberg.com. Cost of College Degree in U.S. Soars 12 Fold: Chart of the Day. August 15, 2012. Michelle Jamrisko and Ilan Kolet.

**Adjusted annually for inflation. If withdrawals are not qualified, the deductions must be added back to Iowa taxable income. The earnings portion of nonqualified withdrawals may be subject to federal income tax and a 10% federal penalty tax, as well as state and local income taxes. The availability of tax or other benefits may be contingent on meeting other requirements.

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Investment returns are not guaranteed and you could lose money by investing in the plan. Participants assume all investment risks as well as responsibility for any federal and state tax consequences. If you are not an Iowa taxpayer, consider before investing whether your or the designated beneficiary's home state offers any state tax or other benefits that are only available for investments in such state's qualified tuition program.

For more information about the College Savings Iowa 529 Plan, call 888-672-9116 or visit www.collegesavingsiowa.com to obtain a Program Description. Investment objectives, risks, charges, expenses, and other important information are included in the Program Description; read and consider it carefully before investing. Vanguard Marketing Corporation, Distributor.

College Savings Iowa is an Iowa trust sponsored by the Iowa State Treasurer's Office. The Treasurer of the State of Iowa sponsors and is responsible for overseeing the administration of the College Savings Iowa 529 Plan. The Vanguard Group, Inc., serves as Investment Manager and Vanguard Marketing Corporation, an affiliate of The Vanguard Group, Inc., assists the Treasurer with marketing and distributing the Plan. Upromise Investment Advisors, LLC, provides records administration services. The Plan's portfolios, although they invest in Vanguard mutual funds, are not mutual funds.

 
Governor Quinn to Lead Trade Mission To Brazil PDF Print E-mail
News Releases - General Info
Written by Leslie Wertheimer   
Thursday, 20 September 2012 08:24

Trip to Focus on Manufacturing, Agriculture, Biotechnology, Education and Tourism

CHICAGO - September 20, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn will lead a trade mission to Brazil Sunday in an effort to increase economic opportunities between Illinois and Brazil. The governor will arrive in Brazil Sept. 23 for a six-day mission designed to strengthen Illinois exports, foster education and boost tourism.

“Brazil’s strong economy and expanding middle class make the country an important market for Illinois,” Governor Quinn said. “We are bringing together leaders from business, government and education to create and develop the relationships that will help fuel economic growth in Illinois.”

Governor Quinn is the first Illinois governor to lead a trade mission to Brazil. With Illinois already leading the Midwest in exports, the trade mission will build on the state’s prior successes as part of Governor Quinn’s agenda to aggressively pursue international trade and create jobs in Illinois. In 2011, Illinois exports to Brazil totaled $2.55 billion, up 24 percent from the previous year, making Brazil the state’s fifth-largest export market. Illinois is the fourth-largest exporter to Brazil in the U.S.

A delegation of officials from Illinois businesses, educational institutions, and state and local governments will accompany Governor Quinn on the trip, which includes stops in São Paulo, Brasilia and Recife. During the mission, Governor Quinn will preside over the signing of several memorandums of understanding as part of the Doing Business with Illinois program, which is designed to establish ties in manufacturing, agriculture, biotechnology and education. The trip will also pave the way for Illinois companies to take advantage of business opportunities as Brazil invests $150 billion of public money to build out its transportation and physical infrastructure.

While in São Paulo, the governor will address the Brazil travel trade industry to encourage Brazilians to visit Illinois. The opportunity to attract more international tourism spending to Illinois is significant, with 1.5 million Brazilians visiting the U.S. in 2011, but less than 4 percent traveling to Illinois. At each of the three stops in Sao Paulo, Brasilia, and Recife, Governor Quinn will hold meetings with key private sector leaders, top government officials and potential trading partners in order to open up more markets to Illinois companies.

The state is also working with Illinois colleges and universities to attract more Brazilian students. Last year, the Brazilian government unveiled plans to fund 100,000 scholarships to send students abroad to study science, engineering and math. The program, called Science Without Borders, provides scholarships for one year of study at colleges and universities in the U.S.

For the current academic year, nine Illinois universities and colleges are hosting 91 Brazilian students through the program. The mission will build on this strong foundation and expand the relationship. A number of Illinois companies have made plans to donate scholarship funds for Brazilians to attend Illinois universities for the 2013 to 2014 school year.  In addition, some Illinois companies will also provide internships to Brazilian students through the Science Without Borders program.

or follow him on Twitter at @GovernorQuinn. More information about Illinois trade and business opportunities can be found on the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity website at

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