The Sun investigation found that the system's procurement card program in particular was operating with virtually no accountability measures. The cards were distributed to 38 administrators but were used regularly by about 16 administrators in the central office.
The Sun's review also found that many of the transactions did not follow spending rules that were spelled out when employees were issued cards.
For instance, according to those rules, the cards are not to be used on travel-related expenses like hotels and airfare. But since the program started, about $67,000 has been charged for travel by central office administrators. The guidelines also prohibit gifts for employees, but departments, including Alonso's, spent more than $600 on items such as fruit baskets, flowers and other gifts.
City school officials said that the procurement program's user guide — which underwent its eighth revision in March — was "outdated" and "unrealistic."
Alonso defended the program. "Overall, people use the program in exactly the way we thought they were going to," he said. "There's always going to be a margin where you give people flexibility, and they're not always going to use it in the way that you want [them to]."