The Environmental Protection Agency is one of the most powerful domestic regulators in the wide-ranging federal bureaucracy.
But a recent review by the agency's inspector general suggests that EPA officials could stand some self-regulation on the credit-card front.
In Fiscal Year 2012, for example, holders of 1,370 EPA credit cards rang up $29 million in purchases. The IG's office sampled $152,602 of these purchases - about 5 percent - and found that more than half of them, $79,254 to be precise, were for "prohibited, improper and erroneous purchases."
Those uses included meals and family gym memberships, child care, theater and music tickets, gift cards and gifts to charity.
Someone should tell the EPA card-holders that charity begins at home, not with taxpayer money.
Americans for Tax Reform, a conservative Washington watchdog, said, "An obvious culture of improper spending has developed at the EPA with little to no oversight."
Indeed, the IG wants the agency's administrator to provide better oversight of the availability and use of its credit cards.
Some of the misuse is sufficiently serious to require more than a mere tightening up on the bureaucratic front. When public money is misused in a manner that clearly crosses the line of established rules and regulations, there should be consequences that go beyond a rap on the wrist. Under existing rules that can include dismissal.
And what if the percentage of "prohibited, improper and erroneous purchases" held up across the board?
That would be serious money, almost $15 million. It suggests a broader review is in order. It's not too much to expect the agency to conduct the necessary reviews to ensure the restraint of credit card use that the law demands.