County’s purchasing card program deemed ‘success’

Tue, 01/12/2010 - 5:05pm
By: John Munford

Fayette County’s purchasing card program, reinvigorated in October 2008, has simplified purchasing for county departments with no abuse of the new associated policies, the county commission was told last week.

The purchasing cards allow for the purchase of office supplies and payment for training and travel, including lodging and meals, Finance Director Mary Holland said.

With 80 cards issued for the county’s various departments, a total of $234,585 was spent on the purchasing cards in the 2009 fiscal year. Of that total, nearly $35,000 was used for purchases made by the Sheriff’s Department’s drug seizure funds out of that separate account, Holland explained.

Purchases for training and travel with associated lodging and meals accounted for nearly 50 percent of the transactions, with office supplies amounting to 23 percent.

Each month the county audits 10 percent of the cards to make sure spending is in compliance with the P-card policy, Holland explained. For the entire fiscal year, only two purchases were flagged as having violated the policy and both were due to a misunderstanding of the policy, Holland said.

Both policy violations involved “splitting” purchases up to get under the transaction limit of $500. One of the purchases was only over that amount by $10 and the other was over by $300 for printer cartridges and other supplies. Departments can order office supplies from an approved vendor online without having to use a P-card, Holland noted.

In addition to the monthly auditing, finance department staff also review purchases to insure compliance, and that’s how the two policy violations were caught, Holland said.

The Sheriff’s Department has the largest number of P-cards with 44, though 17 are tied solely to the drug seizure fund for which the department has its own internal restrictions, Holland said.

The county’s fire and EMS department has the next largest number of authorized cards with 11.

Holland said she would categorize the P-card program as a success for the county.

The county operated a similar program in 2005 that was abandoned in 2006 after problems arose with accountability, including the multiple swiping of cards to circumvent the previous spending limit on purchases.

Alleged misuse of a purchasing card was what apparently led to the resignation of former County Manager Chris Cofty, who was found to have spent more than $2,700 in purchases for business lunches for himself and certain county leaders. Cofty resigned a month after an investigation into those purchases commenced.

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