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April 28, 2017

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Federal inspector: Tighten Yucca Mountain credit card use

Yucca Mountain

The U.S. Energy Department plans to store spent nuclear fuel at Yucca Mountain, an extinct volcano about 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

A federal inspector recommended tightening how staff of the Yucca Mountain Project Office use federal credit cards after reviewing two years worth of purchases.

"We concluded that operation of the Yucca Mountain Project's purchase card programs was not consistent with applicable policies and procedures and contained weaknesses that could expose the department to the risk of fraud, waste or abuse," wrote Herbert Richardson, principal deputy inspector general in the 18-page report completed Aug. 20.

The project has offices in Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas. The Energy Department's Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management and a contractor at the time, Bechtel SAIC LLC, were scrutinized by the inspector general's office from January 2007 to February 2009.

The Yucca Mountain Project's mission is to oversee the proposed first high-level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

The inspector general's review discovered that Yucca Mountain credit card holders had purchased $3.6 million worth of goods and services, including paying the monthly power bill of roughly $360 per month for a total of $4,370 a year.

The OCRWM acting director, Christopher A. Kouts replied that the project should have a contract to pay the electric bill by Dec. 1.

During interviews with seven of nine cardholders, the inspectors learned that four of them did not get approval before making purchases on their cards.

In reviewing all cardholders' accounts from June 2008 through January 2009, about 56 percent of the statements totaling $76,218.35 had not been reviewed by a designated approval official by the required date. Some reviews did not occur for seven months and several had not been reviewed at all.

One of three OCRWM approving officials had not completed required certification training. OCRWM said that as of May 7, 2009, that official's approval authority had been suspended.

Two cardholders said that they had shared credit card numbers with co-workers, although that is not federal policy.

A Bechtel cardholder has also split a purchase of $8,400, paying $2,800 and then two days later buying $5,600 in order to overcome the $5,000 single-purchase limit.

Kouts replied to the inspector's report and said that all recommendations and changes had been implemented.

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