#News: Audit reveals issues with county purchasing cards

#News: Audit reveals issues with county purchasing cards

An internal audit by the Monroe County Clerk of the Court has revealed some issues with county purchasing cards, or P-cards. And the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners has responded by tweaking their policy on Wednesday, first established in 2006.

According to Monroe County Clerk of the Court, Amy Heavilin, the audit began in December of 2013 as a result of concern from staff members.

The audit covers the time period of June 2011 to February 2014, covering the terms of two elected Clerk of the Courts — Danny Kohlage who retired after a 28-year run and current clerk Heavilin. The audit was released earlier this month in a 732-page report. Each section outlines the violations, recommendations, supporting documentation and a rebuttal from Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi.

Monroe County has issued Bank of America P-cards to 26 employees ranging from elected commissioners to senior budget analysts to the director of intergovernmental and legislative affairs. The detailed report found many small accounting errors. However, Heavilin said, any determination of fraud will be made by the State Attorney’s Office, which is in possession of a copy of the audit.

The audit reveals 29 instances in which disallowed purchases — such as a bar tab or rental cars for person use — were reimbursed by the county employees who signed for the charges. Although the employees all made good, Heavilin noted that this type of after-the-fact reconciliation is tantamount to the clerk providing personal accounting services. And it found 23 instances where disallowed purchases were not resolved pending complete documentation; for example, boarding passes for airline travel.

Another issue was $441.00 charged by a county employee to pay the U-Verse account of U.S. Congressman Joe Garcia’s office in the Gato Building in Key West. The county’s own credit card rules prohibit financially supporting any lease in a county building. Roman contends the problem originates in the clerk’s office for nonpayment of those specific charges. So far, Garcia has repaid $188.

The biggest slice of the accounting pie problems is directly related to canceled air travel — $3,232. Both Heavilin and Gastesi agree there needs to be a way to keep track of unused airfare credits.

Heavilin suggested coding airline travel as “prepaid” to serve as an accounting red flag in case the ticket was unable to be used.

The other important issue seems to be one of timeliness. The clerk has noted that 88 percent of the monthly statements and documentation for payment are not submitted to the clerk’s office until after the credit card balance is due. There has been a lapse of anywhere from 5 days to 36 days and the average is 16 days from time payment is due to when the clerk’s office receives the monthly statements from county staff.

“This results in delinquent payments, cards being declined and staff frustration,” the auditor wrote in the clerk’s report. The county administrator acknowledged that this is an area that needs improvement. However, he said cards being declined is a new problem.

“Since the inception of county credit card usage in 2006, there have only been two instances where cards are declined, both under the new clerk,” Gastesi wrote in the audit response.

The audit recommendations to clear up the problems mentioned above, plus others, are to more closely follow the letter of county procedures as they relate to credit cards.

“The best way to fix this is with improved cardholder responsibility and adherence to Monroe County BOCC purchasing policy,”Heavilin said.

“We always welcome audits as a tool to evaluate our policies & procedures, and update them as needed,” Gastesi said. “In fact, the County Commission revised the P- Card policies & procedures [Wednesday] to address occurrences of accidental or inadvertent purchases. Which addresses one of the comments in the P-Card audit. The other audit recommendations are being addressed administratively.”

Problems found:

• Cards used for disallowed purchases such as alcohol or personal items.

• Purchases are not supported by receipts – either the documentation is incomplete or missing altogether.

• Card holders are allowing tax to be charged to the card when making tax-exempt purchases for the county government (rental car, hotel and sales taxes).

• Other problems such as lack of signed credit card holder use agreements, multiple cards assigned to one employee or cards failing to be deactivated upon an employee’s resignation or dismissal, and inventory tracking procedure failures for equipment and supplies purchased with a credit card.

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