Auditor cutting back on credit cards held by county employees

Thursday, March 24, 2005

The Cape Girardeau County Commission and the county auditor thought 55 Wal-Mart credit cards were too many to have floating around in the hands of the county's 185 employees.

So the commission has recalled the cards and will reissue them after a new policy is formed by the auditor. Some discussion among the commissioners suggested that only two cards should be given to each department.

County officials say there is no evidence of abuse of the cards, but that credit card purchases were on the rise and it made sense to gain a little more control over the situation. The county pays roughly $1,200 to $1,500 a month on the Wal-Mart credit cards.

"We don't want to have an abundance of them or too few of them," Ludwig said. "We want to have what we need."

Ludwig said the cards have been accumulating over many years and the approval was "way too automatic."

The county pays the bills monthly to avoid paying recurring interest month after month. He said the county has other credit cards that are used mostly for travel expenses. Otherwise, the Wal-Mart cards are the cards most used.

He couldn't say exactly how much the credit card use had increased, but he said overall expenses have increased over the years.

Presiding Commissioner Gerald Jones thought 55 credit cards was "a little excessive."

"We know no one is buying personal stuff; it just needs to be monitored a little bit more," Jones said. "It's just not good management, not good business practice to have 55 credit cards floating out there."

Associate Commissioner Jay Purcell said the auditor's office should be commended for noticing the rising expenses.

"It shouldn't have even got to that point to where there were 55 credit cards," he said. "That's ridiculous."

Sheriff John Jordan said the sheriff's department has 15 cards. The department is the largest in the county with 69 employees, including jail, patrol and business operations divisions.

He said the cards aren't used very often, but said he didn't have a problem with the county looking over the situation.

"From what I understand it's to do an internal audit to see who's got what," he said. "I don't think they're micromanaging or anything like that. Checks and balances are a good thing."

As far as the discussion of allowing only two cards for each department, Jordan said two would be too limiting. Ludwig said the cards would be re-issued on a department-by-department basis.

County Clerk Rodney Miller said his department had just two cards. He had one and another one was kept locked and could only be used with his permission. He said his department would not be affected.

The credit card recall is not directly related to the county's proposed purchasing policy, a policy being drafted by Treasurer Roger Hudson for the commission's review.

Recently, the commission asked Hudson to formulate a plan for a centralized purchasing department. Hudson said that policy has not yet made it to the commission's desk for review.

However, he said such a department could save the county money on supplies because the county could buy more common items in bulk instead of each department shopping on its own.

bmiller@semissourian.com

243-6635

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