6 Investigates

Jun 9, 2014 6:16 PM by Andrew Ellison - aellison@kristv.com

6 Investigates Follow-up: City Still Hasn't Fixed Problems with Spending

CORPUS CHRISTI - It's been nearly two years since an audit exposed serious problems with the way city employees were spending your tax dollars.

The city gives some employees credit cards for city use.

There are rules for using those cards, and those rules were broken.

The city calls them procurement cards or p-cards for short.

Those cards, and purchase orders, are the main way the city pays for certain expenses. Things like maintenance tools, travel, and the purchase of other approved items.

In the last nine months, nearly $12 million was spent by way of a credit card.

The audit from 2012 revealed some questionable transactions throughout the city.

This included five purchases for iPads that weren't approved, two payments to Paypal, an online site employees are not allowed to use, and other purchases that appeared to be for personal use.

However, the biggest problem was employees who have left the city still had access to the accounts, because their cards weren't being deactivated.

Ex-employees are required to turn in their cards, but the cards have to be deactivated, because if that ex-employee took down the card information, he or she could still make purchases with it.

Because of these problems, and others, the city instituted a 19 step plan to fix the problem.

The plan had no deadline, and many of those steps have been done. Like updating the p-card rules and procedures, or requiring mandatory training for any employee who uses one.

But a recent follow up audit found the city still wasn't deactivating ex-employee cards.

Finance Director Constance Sanchez says that problem is currently being fixed.

"Now we're working with human resources on a weekly basis. We're finding out who is terminated, and at that point, we're deactivating those cards," she says.

Purchase orders are part of this problem too, and after the audit, employees were supposed to be trained on the proper uses.

Only half of all employees have been trained so far, and those who haven't aren't supposed to be allowed to buy anything on behalf of the city, but they still are.

"If they're doing it day to day, we can't really restrict their access because it will stop operations from happening," Sanchez says.

The city is confident all the outstanding issues will be fixed soon, but we asked why it's taken nearly two years to do everything.

"Ideally, if we were fully staffed, I would say yes, they (changes) should be implemented immediately, but when you have shortages of personnel, these areas kind of fall short," Sanchez says.

Any employee who violates the rules for spending can lose their card or face termination, depending on how bad the violation is.

Since the audit report, the city has reduced the number of card holders. 279 employees have cards.


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