Arundel revises policy on county credit cards

200 government employees lose spending privileges

November 16, 2003|By Ryan Davis | Ryan Davis,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County officials have revoked the government credit cards of more than 200 employees, and they have lowered the credit limits of several others as part of an attempt to tighten spending controls.

The county's No. 2 official announced the new policy, which includes a zero-tolerance clause for abusers, earlier this month, and the employees who review credit card expenses were retrained on Thursday and Friday.

The moves follow reports of credit card abuse by Washington D.C. city employees and a recent opinion from the county law office stating that some Visa spending did not meet standards in the county code.

"We have hopefully put together a system that ensures we can sleep well at night," chief administrative officer Robert L. Walker said in an interview Friday.

Despite the need for change, Walker said that he believes the county has had "virtually no abuse" of its Visa cards and that when there has been abuse, reviewers caught it. The four-step review process put into place this month is intended to formalize the process already occurring in most cases, he said.

County Auditor Teresa Sutherland said her office is in the process of auditing purchases made on county credit cards, and so far she has "been pleasantly surprised" by the lack of abuse.

In July, the D.C. City Council suspended the city's credit card purchasing program after an audit discovered questionable uses and overspending.

Last year, Anne Arundel employees spent $6.6 million with credit cards, making nearly 43,000 purchases, county officials said. Nearly one in four county employees -- excluding court and school employees -- had a credit card.

The number of employees holding a credit card has dropped over the past few months, from about 900 to 684. Walker said he expects it to go lower. "The more you have, the greater the chance they might be misused," he said.

Part-time and temporary employees will no longer be allowed to use credit cards, he said. And credit card abusers will be fired, Walker said.

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