Knox County Mayor Ragsdale's office responds to the latest KNS series on P-Card spending:
Improvements for Purchasing Card Program
Beginning Sunday, November 11, 2007, the Knoxville News Sentinel will run a series of articles examining spending in county government. A number of these articles will focus on the Executive Branch.
The Mayor’s Office knows there is no more important responsibility in protecting the public’s trust than to be careful, responsible and conservative custodians of the people’s money. The entire staff of the Mayor’s Office is committed to making certain that every tax dollar managed by the Executive Branch is spent as efficiently as possible, and exclusively for the benefit of the citizens who contributed those funds.
The past several months have brought forward a number of concerns, particularly related to the use of county purchasing cards, also known as p-cards. The following is a brief summary of some of the steps taken by the Mayor’s Office to reduce the likelihood of future problems:
1. Suspended 171 Purchasing Cards on June 25, 2007.
2. Three employees were dismissed and one employee was reprimanded.
3. Mandatory Purchasing Card re-training for all employees who did have or might have an occasion to use a card.
4. Purchasing Card Review Committee formed.
5. Multiple visits made by the Mayor to the State Comptroller seeking assistance with Purchasing Card problems.
6. Instituted a major staff reorganization including creation of a Financial Compliance Officer and a Policy Compliance Officer.
7. Instituted stronger, improved management controls:
- Asked Commission’s Auditor to increase the volume of random sampling performed each year.
- Instituted centralized, rather than departmental, control of Purchasing Card records.
- Named new administrator of Purchasing Card Program.
8. Blocked all travel and food privileges for all cards under the Executive Branch.
9. Providing comprehensive monthly p-card statements to the County Commission.
10. Employees instructed in proper reporting procedure for business mileage reimbursement.
It is important to note that the vast majority of p-card charges are appropriate and above reproach. Every month, Knox County purchases food for the jails, pharmaceuticals for the health department and hundreds of other items on p-cards. In October 2007, there were 1,099 p-card transactions with a total dollar value of $582,977.52.
P-card programs are a standard business practice in both the public and private sector. They offer much greater purchasing efficiency than requisition-based systems and can enhance the monitoring and tracking of expenditures. Additionally, in some cases, companies furnishing p-card services will provide rebates to the government or industry served by the program. In 2006, Knox County received a $26,000 rebate from its vendor.
The Mayor’s Office has provided full and complete access to all of the records requested by the News Sentinel and has worked hard to provide detailed and complete answers to all of their questions. The staff of the News Sentinel has been courteous and professional throughout the information gathering process and we appreciate their conduct.
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