I am a federal employee. I was hired by the FAA in 1989 after (5 years in the US Navy) as an Air Traffic Controller (ATC). I currently work in an administrative capacity for a small group of about 25 technicians who travel all throughout the southeastern US region maintaining and repairing equipment vital to the function of the national airway system. This includes systems such as communication, radar, and navigational equipment that keep our nations commercial air carriers in the sky and allow ATC to do their job.
As part of my job, about a year ago I was issued a government credit card (GSA MasterCard) so that we may make real-time purchases used with money our organization has been allotted as part of the annual budget of the whole DOT/FAA.
Generally, I average between 4-6 purchases a month for very specialized purchases, such as tools or electronic test equipment, but sometimes also things like GPS navigation units and trailer hitches for our government vehicles, and occasionally even things like specialty sized envelopes and other unique office supplies that we made need. All items are only allowed to be purchased via a multilevel approval process. In other words, if I don’t have all the right signatures, I will get fired for using this credit card.
Recently, I made an authorized purchase from the GSA Global Supply (General Services Administration) for items that one of my technicians needed.
GSA Global Supply™ provides easy and flexible requisition-based ordering for access to approximately 400,000 tools, office supplies, computer products , safety gear, cleaning products and other items.
As with any website, I was required to open an online account and issued a user ID and password, just like with any website from which you might make a purchase. What I did not realize was that when I registered on the site I was automatically signed up to receive their annual GSA catalog of products. Kind of like a Sears catalog but not quite as big.
Today, along with probably tens of thousands of other government credit card holders, I received my first shiny brand new 2010 GSA Global Supply catalog… VIA PRIORITY USPS MAIL! They even had the audacity to include a packing slip that stated that I actually ordered it, which I did not, excepting the fact that I simply registered on their website.
Now, just to be clear on my outrage, GSA sent me and thousands of other government and military credit card holders who have made purchases from their website , VIA EXPENSIVE UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE PRIORITY MAIL, a physical catalog that has all of the same items in it as their website has, that I did not conscientiously request.
The mailing label did not state a specific amount that was paid for the postage but according to USPS.gov, the rate for a priority mail 12-1/2″ x 9-1/2″ envelope is $4.90 EACH… to potentially tens of thousands of government credit card holders. Even if this went to only 10,000 other purchasers, that is still nearly half a million dollars… IN POSTAGE!
I immediately called the GAO (Government Accountability Office) Inspector General’s office and spent about 25 minutes on the phone filing a complaint. With that complaint I provided my full name and contact information even though I am not required to do so. Many of the tips they receive are anonymous.
The reason I am sharing this with you is not to toot my own horn. It is simply to let you know that there are at least some federal employees who are holding people accountable for your tax dollars. As a Tea Party protester who has objected strenuously to the lack of fiscal responsibility, I have a duty to act when I have the opportunity to do so when it comes to our tax dollars. Even though I’m a government employee, I pay taxes too and am equally as outraged as you are to see waste.
I’ll keep you updated if and when I learn of any results from the GAO investigation.