In a recent investigation the public service watchdog found PM&C had not reported any cases of misuse, as it must do under federal law. Photo: Jim Rice
The public service watchdog has warned the Prime Minister's Department to keep a closer eye on how its credit cards are used.
The Auditor-General sampled about 1500 transactions against three government agencies' cards to ensure the workplaces were protecting against fraud.
The audit suggested Geoscience Australia kept impeccable records, and found no dodgy purchases by the agency's staff.
However, the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet failed to check and acquit about a third of its transactions within the required time frame.
PM&C and Austrade also lacked receipts for about one in 20 of their staff's credit-card purchases, though the audit noted they were "mainly low-value transactions".
The report said the "incidence of misuse in the sample of credit-card transactions examined ... was very low, and the audited agencies' controls were effective in identifying such misuse".
However, it identified five cases of cards misuse: four in PM&C and one in Austrade.
PM&C had not reported any cases of misuse, as it must do under federal law.
The misuses involved fraudulent use of the credit-card number by a third party, double processing of charges by merchants, and, in one case, "potential abuse by a staff member".
The audit also revealed that four in every five Austrade employees have a government-issued credit card.
The agency said its staff often travelled overseas and needed to make ad hoc purchases. It permitted its staff not to bother keeping receipts for minor, travel-related spending of up to $20 a day.
Federal government agencies reported 656 cases of credit-card misuse last financial year, a rise from 608 in the previous year.
The Finance Department said the cases mostly involved "the accidental misuse" of cards and Cabcharge vouchers for personal purchases.
The Auditor-General said government credit cards were a convenient and flexible approach to buying goods and services, though it was crucial that their use was monitored carefully.