Fayette approves renewal of P-card program

Tue, 10/28/2008 - 3:57pm
By: John Munford

Some Fayette County employees in all county departments will be able to swipe their way toward minor purchases instead of filling out tedious purchase orders.

The cards will also be used to purchase travel items that have been approved through the county’s budgeting process.

Last week the Fayette County Commission voted 5-0 to extend the newly revised purchasing card program to all county departments. Though a staff memo said the cards would also be given to elected officials, Commission Chairman Jack Smith confirmed that they will not be given to county commissioners.

The new program has several improvements that will make it easier to track purchases, said Finance Director Mary Holland. First, the bank will give an electronic feed of transactions directly to the county.

Second, the finance department has been reorganized so county finance accounting analysts will be assigned to work with specific departments on their P-card purchases.

Monthly audits will be conducted on 10 percent of the cards utilized during the month. Violators of the policy face a verbal reminder on the first violation, a written warning and 30-day card suspension with a written warning on the second violation and removal from the purchasing card program on the third violation.

Commissioner Eric Maxwell said he expected someone buying personal items on their card would face a more stiff penalty. Acting County Administrator Jack Krakeel said that employee would be subject to termination thanks to other county policies already on the books.

“It seems to be working well, just keep up the good monitoring,” Smith said.

According to the P-card policy, each transaction must be documented by an itemized sales receipt instead of a credit card receipt, the policy states.

According to the policy, the p-cards may only be used for: Emergency purchases; employee training, seminars and dues; medical supplies and pharmaceuticals; office supplies; travel related expenditures; miscellaneous other supplies and services up to a maximum unit cost of $250.

Examples would be cleaning supplies, building supplies, computer parts, vehicle repairs, safety supplies and shipping supplies.

A different version of the P-card program was abandoned in May 2006 after a two-week period where county employees had spent more than $118,000 on the cards, which then-commission Chairman Greg Dunn noted as significant since the cards were to be used as “petty cash.”

Among the problems tied to the P-cards were the multiple swiping of cards to circumvent the previous spending limit on purchases, it was noted at the commission’s Wednesday workshop meeting.

Former Manager Chris Cofty resigned in 2005 after questions arose about more than $4,000 in business lunches charged to his P-card in 2003 and 2004.

The latest P-card program has been in a trial phase with selected departments for the past year, and county finance officials have recommended additional controls and limitations to control it.

The intent of the policy is to reduce the use of petty cash and small dollar purchase orders, according to the county policy on the purchasing card, or P-card, program.

Each card will have a limit of $500 per transaction (with an exception for seminars and hotel stays covering multiple days); no more than 10 transactions per day, no more than $5,000 may accrue during a billing cycle and no more than $20,000 in annual credit limit.

The “splitting” of charges to buy items or services over the limit will be considered an abuse of the program, according to the policy. Such a process was used by the roads department to pay for a contract to stripe roads in what was considered by some an abuse of the program, though former road department chief Lee Hearn said it was approved at the time by then-county manager Chris Cofty.

Hearn, who is now employed by Henry County, will take office in January as the newly-elected Fayette County commissioner for Post 3, replacing Peter Pfeifer, whom he defeated in a runoff election in August.

In the new policy, the county administrator is authorized to allow the cards’ limits to be exceeded.

The policy states that P-cards cannot be used for cash advances, gifts, legal services, personal items or unbudgeted items.

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Submitted by CuriousBob on Thu, 10/30/2008 - 6:32am.

There is nothing wrong with the use of P-Cards for any government or business to expidite small purchases. The problem comes in when there is no accountability. As long as a card user knows that someone may ask questions about purchases, then it isn't likely that there will be abuse. One thing is certain, with monthly audits, accountability is in place to minimize problems.

sniffles5's picture
Submitted by sniffles5 on Wed, 10/29/2008 - 9:19am.

(with apologies to Forrest Gump)Like Peanut Butter and Jelly, Lee Hearn and P-Cards were made for each other.

The new rules will be a challenge to Commissioner Hearn, but I have every bit of faith that the man will rise to the occasion and game the P-Card system as he has done in the past.

In the short term, I'm thinking Super Bowl Tickets...

Once he gets himself situated on the county commission, though, I'd like to see Commissioner Hearn really show us how it's done and use his P-Card to buy a house. Eye-wink

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