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Wasting Our Tax Dollars

Oct 15, 2007

Like the tip of the proverbial iceberg, a "snapshot" audit of the state purchasing card program has revealed widespread misuse and fraud.

Designed to make the Georgia government's "small-dollar," $5,000- limit purchasing more efficient - thus reducing administrative costs - the 10-year-old credit card program, developed by the Department of Administrative Services and the Bank of America, serves 129 agencies.

Seven were audited.

In the most severe cases, four state employees were found to be using the cards for personal purchases - one Georgia Tech employee charged more than $40,000 in fraudulent expenditures, including her son's auto insurance and a diamond ring.

The employees were discharged and the state attorney general's office promises swift retribution. The state shouldn't lose any money - card issuer Bank of America considers this misuse and covers the losses.

They shouldn't have any trouble; it's a big account for Bank of America. Since 1997 the p-card purchasing volume has risen to $300 million, with almost 1.4 million transactions on 20,000 cards.

The major revelation of the audit was inadequate oversight of the program from the Department of Administrative Services on down. The auditors found policies, procedures, training of users, training of supervisors, record-keeping and review of purchases all substandard or non-existent.

Gov. Sonny Perdue is on the warpath, and rightly so. He is demanding that every state agency review p-card use and fix the problems.

He also needs to take a close look at Administrative Services, whose stated goal is to be the "best business run by a government."

This department, which received a $4.3 million rebate from the program in 2006, took the sharpest criticism from the auditors for not assuming ultimate oversight responsibility. Commissioner Brad Douglas and his assistants have, we hope, been looking after the bigger purchases and ignoring the small fry. They need to get their heads back in the game - before they are lopped off - and start giving the various state agencies a hand.

If they really were running a business, their stockholders would be howling.

(c) 2007 Augusta Chronicle, The. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

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