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Watchdog group sheds light on U46 P-Card use

By Seth Hancock:
  School District U-46 officials say that the district will be making some changes to purchasing card procedures after a watchdog group uncovered inappropriate uses of those cards.
  The Edgar County Watchdogs submitted a Freedom of Information Act request last month seeking P-Card statements.
  Inappropriate card uses were found such as in June 2014 when one of the district’s high school principals used the card to purchase baseball tickets for the Oakland Athletics on a trip to California. On that trip, the card user also purchased a $44 haircut in San Francisco.
  “While we believe the proper use of P-Cards will reduce costs and improve efficiency, the FOIA pointed out that we need to improve our internal controls with regard to these cards,” said Mary Fergus, director of School and Community Relations.
  Fergus added: “The use of the card for a haircut or baseball tickets is inappropriate and these expenditures have been reimbursed.”
  The establishment of the use of P-Cards came “in 2013 to increase convenience, improve accountability and reduce the costs associated with initiating and paying for smaller departmental expenditures,” according to Fergus. She also said that “we have about 50 active users, primarily full-time district administrators, at this time.”
  Fergus said that the appropriate uses of the cards include supplies and equipment (computer equipment excluded), tools and hardware, dues and subscriptions, books, professional memberships, shipping charges and travel-related expenses that are pre-approved and follow district travel policy.
  At the start of this month, Fergus said food and restaurant purchases will no longer be acceptable with the P-Cards.
  The subject of P-Cards was included in a presentation on operational services benchmarks and targets at the Board of Education meeting on Monday, July 20.
  Rickey Sparks, director of Business Services, said some of the beneficial aspects of the P-Cards include quicker delivery of goods, better prices on goods and services and less paperwork.
  Phil Costello asked how the district will control P-Card usage considering there is less paperwork, and Sue Kerr asked about new updates since the inappropriate uses were uncovered.
  “In the past month, we’ve updated them and then we’ve re-written the process of what is allowable and what is not,” said Jeff King, chief Operations officer. King said the new guidelines and training will be given to P-Card holders in the next few weeks.
  Jeanette Ward asked about the checks and balances in place to make sure the P-Cards are used appropriately. King said previously there was one person in the Financial Department reviewing “thousands of transactions,” but now “the assistant superintendent will have to review anybody who falls under them who has a card.”
  U-46 CEO Tony Sanders said the FOIA request “brought to light some deficiencies in our internal processes” and there were “not huge discrepancies, but certainly discrepancies we must address.”
  According to the Edgar County Watchdogs website, the process to get the FOIA request fulfilled was a task as the initial request for statements was denied because the request asked for credit card statements, not purchasing card statements.

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