Montgomery County launches broad review of credit card purchases -- Gazette.Net


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Montgomery County’s inspector general is looking into how well the county controls credit card charges by its agencies and employees.

Inspector General Edward L. Blansitt III said the review will encompass the county government, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County, the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, Montgomery College and Montgomery County Public Schools.

His aim, he said, is to ensure these entities have “well-designed” and effective controls to prevent card misuse, to make recommendations for best practices and to identify controls that need to be strengthened.

Blansitt’s plan for the review comes to light as the school board evaluates its members’ use of credit cards and expenses.

Board President Philip Kauffman formed an ad hoc committee of board members to evaluate the issue after it was discovered that member Christopher S. Barclay used his school system-issued credit card to make multiple personal purchases. He repaid the system.

Blansitt said that situation helped “firm up the idea” for a widespread review of purchasing cards, which he hopes to complete within a year.

“I think that there’s always, whenever there’s use of a purchase card, there’s always the potential, always a vulnerability for the entity,” he said.

He said here is no allegation of specific misuse in county government.

Concerns have surfaced in the past about the use of purchase cards, Blansitt said.

County entities involved in the review said they will comply.

Kauffman said the school system will cooperate, but didn’t think the analysis would affect the board’s work regarding its expenses.

“We are continuing to develop our recommendations and certainly aware of what’s going on with the [inspector general], but I don’t think it will impact the recommendations that we make,” he said.

Patrick Lacefield, a county government spokesman, said its Finance Department runs its credit card program.

All county departments participate in the program to different degrees, Lacefield said. Each department tends to have a few card holders, with some of the larger departments having more, he said.

The Finance Department is “constantly reviewing” the program, he said.

“We’re not aware of any problems per se with the county’s credit card program,” Lacefield said.

The Park and Planning Commission has sent to Blansitt a December internal audit report of its card program, plus its program policy and procedure manual, according to a letter Tuesday from acting Executive Director Anju Bennett.

About 115 commission employees had cards as of September, the audit report says.

The report said the auditors found the program’s controls satisfactory overall.

Jim Neustadt, a spokesman for the WSSC, said the commission had received notice of the review but not a request for information.

The commission’s card program was last updated in July 2012, Neustadt said. About 375 employees have cards, out of about 1,600 employees.

“Each employee must pass a [purchasing card] exam before a card is issued, and take a yearly refresher course and exam,” Neustadt said in an email.

Montgomery College received a request to provide documents for the review and plans to respond, according to an email with information from Ruby Sherman, the college’s vice president of finance and CFO.

The guidelines for the college’s purchasing card and corporate card programs were changed in 2011 and the updates included strengthening internal controls, according to the email.

The college will “value input” from the review, the email said.

Staff Writer Kate Alexander contributed to this report.

lpowers@gazette.net