By DOTTY NIST
An updated policy for use of Walton County purchasing cards (p-cards) was approved as part of the consent agenda at the Sept. 27 Walton County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) regular meeting at the South Walton Annex.
The consent agenda was approved with no BCC discussion and no attendee taking the opportunity to provide public comment.
There had been much discussion in the community on p-card use by county commissioners since early July, when a 40-page report by the Walton County Clerk of Courts Internal Audit Department came to light. The report had yielded findings that some of the officials’ p-card transactions had violated county policy and Florida Statute in some instances.
The report had been prompted by a Jan. 31 anonymous statement to the clerk’s Fraud, Waste, and Abuse Hotline alleging that two county commissioners had abused their privileges in connection with county vehicle use, mileage reimbursement for vehicle use, and county p-card use. This original statement had not been substantiated in the Internal Audit Department’s investigation.
Referral of the matter to the state attorney for the First Judicial Circuit and subsequently to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) had resulted in an Aug. 23 letter from FDLE indicating that there had been insufficient evidence to support a criminal investigation.
The updated eight-page p-card policy document states, “P-Card accounts shall be used solely for authorized County purchases that serve a public purpose. CARD ACCOUNTS CANNOT BE USED FOR ANY PERSONAL USE.”
Among other conditions, an itemized receipt is required for each transaction detailing the purchase and identifying the vendor. An electronic copy of all paper receipts is to be sent to the email address for the program for back-up.
In rare instances when the original or a duplicate receipt is not available, the policy allows a request for payment of the charge that is to include a description of the purchase, efforts made to obtain a receipt, and the reason for the receipt being unavailable. In such instances, approval of both the Walton County chief financial officer and clerk of courts administrative services director is an additional requirement.
If the card holder’s representation in such an instance is not accepted by these officials, the card holder becomes liable for the entire transaction, per the policy.
The policy advises that p-cards cannot be used to pay for fuel for county vehicles while traveling locally (with exceptions for times when the county fuel system is unavailable), for alcoholic beverages unless allowed by county policy, resolution or ordinance, or for meals covered under the county travel policy.
All transactions are subject to periodic audit by the Clerk of Courts Finance Department to ensure compliance with county purchasing policy and p-card policy.
New p-card holders are required to attend training sessions on p-card policy.
Failure to comply with guidelines may result in permanent revocation of the card holder’s p-card and “further disciplinary measures.”
The updated policy document may be viewed at the link: