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Letter to the Editor
County credit cards must be managed
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Forsyth County News
Management of the county’s credit card program is the problem, not the credit cards.

When I left in 2002, the purchasing policy contained a credit card procedure with checks and balances and an abundance of built-in controls. From what I see now, with the number of cards, the increase in limits per card, and per day, and opening up of the type commodities that can be purchased with a credit card, it is no longer used as originally intended.

In a recent article, about the credit card abuse in the county, the finance department said that they had no problem with the program as is because it increases the amount of our rebate from the state. When you have spending that is not controlled and public trust at stake, the amount of a rebate seems irrelevant.

On a monthly basis, the bank provides detailed reports of spending trends and exception reports for identifying any possible misuse and over use, and identifies items that are purchased repeatedly. Possibly controls have become less stringent for convenience of the departments, or the ones responsible for auditing are not doing their jobs. 

I have spoken to commissioners about the potential for abuse of many county policies and suggested they consider an internal audit department similar to Gwinnett and Cobb counties to insure compliance. Usually the answer was, we don’t have the money for an internal audit staff. 

So instead, we have hired an auditor to perform a one-time audit. We may get a better picture of how widespread non-compliance to county policies is, or is not, but the jury is still out. Based on the qualifications of the firm given at the work session, by the finance department and the audit firm, I have reservations. One other observation watching that work session was that this audit firm was the only one presented by the finance department for consideration for a contract. Why? Why didn’t the board ask about other firms with experience with a county our size?  Again, are our commissioners taking this issue seriously?  Only time will tell. 

Bettina Hammond
(Hammond is a former purchasing director for the county government.)