NEW ROADS — The use of city-issued credit cards was called into question again in New Roads after an audit report released Monday revealed that 21 percent — roughly $13,100 — of the transactions made by city officials in 2014 lacked receipts explaining purchases and charges.
The audit report, conducted by New Roads accounting firm Major, Morrison and David, also called out the city’s former finance director for using a city credit card to gas up her personal vehicle while on city business and making at least 16 personal charges not pertaining to city business.
The audit notes that employees have reimbursed the city for nearly all the questionable charges.
The report comes eight months after the state’s Legislative Auditor’s Office launched its own investigation into Mayor Robert Myer’s use of a city credit card to make what appeared to be nearly $134,000 in personal charges between 2011 and 2014.
Greg Phares, chief investigator with the state Inspector General’s Office, confirmed Monday that his office is still conducting an “ongoing investigation” into that activity but offered no further details.
Myer on Monday called the audit’s findings a welcome tool that will help the city tighten up its financial practices.
“It’s their job to do this, and it’s going to help us get better,” he said.
The state’s constitution prohibits state and local governments from loaning “funds, credit, property or things of value” to any person or public or private entity.
The audit highlighted many of the same issues the Legislative Auditor’s Office already called into question in November during its probe into the city’s financial records, which led to the Inspector General’s investigation.
The audit says meal expenditures lacked receipts to prove their business purposes, did not provide itemized proof of what was purchased and did not say which employees used various credit cards for approximately $13,108 worth of charges.
It also was pointed out that the former finance director, who retired after getting married earlier this year, made $13,350 worth of personal charges with a city credit card.
Auditors frowned upon a city policy that permitted the personal use of city-issued credit cards as long as employees reimbursed the city for use.
Auditors recommended the city reduce the number of city credit cards from seven to one and hold one person responsible for ensuring supporting documentation is obtained any time the card is used.
“Alternatively, all cards should be cancelled and the city revert to a reimbursement method, whereby personnel, with proper requisition approval, use their personal credit card and submit documented receipts along with the purpose of the purchase for reimbursement,” the audit states. “If no receipts are provided for the purchase, no reimbursement will be approved.”
In his written response to the findings, the mayor agreed with auditors about reducing the number of city credit cards.
He wrote that the city will do that and add additional safety measures that include: requiring every credit card transaction have a purchase order to better track, approve and identify use; and mandating that complete receipts and two signatures be required before any credit card bills are paid in the future.
Myer said the city also discontinued personal use of city credit cards in 2013 after learning it was a violation of state law.
As for the $410 worth of fuel purchases the former finance director made to fuel her personal vehicle, the audit says the city had no policy for reimbursement of non-city-owned vehicle usage and it was incorrectly assumed that because an employee was using a personal vehicle for city-related business, that fuel could be purchased with city funds.
In his written response, Myer promised to ban the use of city funds to fuel personal vehicles from now on and said a new policy will require preauthorized use of personal vehicles when city-owned vehicles aren’t available.
The policy, he wrote, will require a mileage reimbursement form be submitted by employees.
Fuel purchases for city-owned vehicles must be made through the voyager fleet fuel system going forward, he explained.
“When the voyager fleet fuel system cannot be used due to out-of-town travel, preauthorization will be obtained in order to purchase fuel using the city credit card,” he wrote. “A purchase order will be written up and receipts obtained at the point of purchase.”
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