The federal fraudsters

By Other Views: Washington Post
Published April 27, 2007

Some Washington commuters buy their Metro Farecard with cash at a station. Others prefer to have money deducted from their paychecks and loaded onto SmarTrip cards. And then there are those who pay for their rides on eBay.

The Government Accountability Office reported that federal employees are scamming a program intended to finance their commutes. The program has become a pot of free money for enterprising but ethically challenged federal bureaucrats.

Take the example of an employee at the Transportation Department who sold his unused transportation vouchers - known as Metrocheks in Washington - on eBay for $1,080. Or the IRS worker who sold $930 worth of Metrocheks while simultaneously claiming a free parking space at work. The GAO estimates that federal staffers in the Washington region illicitly pocket at least $17-million a year by abusing the program.

The Treasury Department alone handed out vouchers to 25 people who never worked there, the GAO reported. Individual Metrocheks don't identify which agency issued them, and anyone can slide them through Metro's fare machines. And considering that administrative checks are apparently lax enough to allow employees to keep free parking spaces and still claim significant Metro subsidies, some federal agencies clearly don't do enough to prevent abuse.

As for those who illegally profited by selling their Metrocheks? At the least, they should have to pay back what they stole.