House goes after purchasing card abusers

ATLANTA - The House on Tuesday unanimously approved legislation cracking down on the use of purchasing cards by state employees.

Rep. John Heard, R-Lawrenceville, introduced the bill after an oversight committee he chaired last fall heard testimony of widespread abuses.

Purchasing cards have become prevalent across state government in recent years as a convenient way for employees to buy equipment and supplies they need to carry out their duties. Also, processing electronic purchases is less expensive for the Department of Administrative Services than dealing with paper receipts.

But an audit conducted last year discovered that some employees were using the cards to spend thousands of dollars on personal items, from jewelry to vacation trips. The worst abuses were found in the state university system.

Heard's bill, which now moves to the Senate, would make improper purchases of $500 or more using the cards a felony for an employee, or for a supervisor who allowed the activity to go on. Improper purchases of less than $500 would be a misdemeanor.

The bill also would prohibit employees from using purchasing cards to buy any personal items that are not job related, including alcoholic beverages, tobacco products or gift cards.

State agencies issuing purchasing cards would be required to review their employees' use of the cards at least once a year. Supervisors would have to review purchases at least quarterly.