WASHINGTON (AP) -- Navy personnel bought jewelry, attended ball games and even hired prostitutes at Nevada brothels with government funds, congressional investigators have found in the latest examples of abuses in the Pentagon credit card program.
Despite increased Defense Department efforts to control misuse of the travel cards, a General Accounting Office report showed the abuses continued at least through last March -- long after investigators first reported on the problem in the summer of 2001.
From October 2000 through March 2002, the new survey found 1,180 Navy transactions for personal items totaling $206,700. Lower-paid enlisted personnel earning between $12,000 and $27,000 were the biggest abusers but the Navy bears responsibility for failure to monitor the travel card program, the GAO said in the report obtained Monday.
The Pentagon has stepped up its efforts to control use of the cards. Some 400,000 inactive accounts unused during the previous year have been canceled. Those who abused the cards have had money involuntarily deducted from their paychecks.
Officials who grant security clearances now are notified when a card holder comes under investigation. And the military has promised to step up civil and criminal prosecutions.
Last summer, the GAO found that some 200 Army personnel had used the cards to get $38,000 in cash that they spent on lap dances and other forms of entertainment at strip clubs near military bases.
The new Navy study found additional use of the cards to obtain cash at adult clubs.
"Once again the bottom line is the same: no controls, extensive abuse and no accountability," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
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