State audit finds misuse of cards

$6,000 spent on holiday lapel pins

COLUMBIA --- A Kindle e-book reader for a State Law Enforcement Division employee, $4,000 in unspecified "official dinner" expenses by S.C. State University, and $6,000 in Veterans Day lapel pins for the Department of Employment and Workforce were among the details of an audit of state credit card purchases.

One in six state employees has a card, and the state Legislative Audit Council says there should be tighter oversight.

The state Budget and Control Board awarded the contract for the cards to Bank of America in 2006. The program was created in 1996 to allow employees to make small purchases of materials and equipment. More than 10,000 cards have been issued at 93 state agencies.

From August 1, 2008, through July 31, 2009, public purchases exceeded $163 million, and in 2009, the state received about $2.7 million in rebates.

In the case of the SLED Kindle purchase, the audit appeared to take issue with the employee having the device shipped to his home in preparation for a trip, not in the purchase. The audit said the purchase of Veterans Day lapel pins should have involved three written quotes.

The audit also found:

- Thirty-two agencies, or just over one-third, had disciplined employees for abusing the cards.

- Thirty-three reported lost or stolen cards.

- Thirty-nine agencies' employees use the cards for personal use and had to reimburse the state.

- Instances in which employees made purchases above $2,500, violating the state procurement. Agencies are supposed to collect at least three written bids for purchases greater than that amount, but internal agency audits found employees sometimes split transactions to get around the requirement.

Among those listed as possible offenders were Francis Marion University, the Department of Transportation and the Department of Public Safety.