BATON ROUGE – Louisiana state employees billed $ 863 million for acquisition and travel card programs over a five-year period, including $ 147 million in 2020, a year marked by lockdowns in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Louisiana’s legislative auditor released a review of spending card programs, saying that a Audit was necessary âbecause the obligations resulting from these transactions are direct commitments of the Stateâ.
The programs are monitored by the Office of State Travel (OST), which is part of the Administration Division. They allow state employees to use taxpayer-funded credit cards to make purchases on behalf of their government employers, which include state agencies, boards, commissions, and universities.
Auditors found that the number of transactions made by state employees and the total dollar amount of transactions increased from 2016-19 and only declined in 2020 due to COVID-19.
“Card usage increased between calendar years 2016 and 2019, with an increase in the number of card transactions by 17.4% – from 474,862 to 557,560 – and the amount of those transactions increasing by 19.6% – from $ 161.3 million to $ 192.9 million, “the report said.
Dozens of state entities were included in the analysis, but Louisiana State University stood out as the primary source of spending and use.
Auditors determined that more than a third of the total spent over the five-year period came from LSU and its various institutions, which accounted for $ 300.8 million, or 34.8% of the total of $ 863 million.
It was also reported that LSU is not subject to independent oversight by the Office of State Travel; instead, LSU monitors its own credit card spending – an arrangement that does not exist for any other state entity.
“In November 2015, the DOA (Division of Administration) and LSU entered into a memorandum of understanding to allow LSU to administer its card programs for all LSU institutions, including all audit and compliance functions.” , indicates the report. âThe MOU does not require LSU to send the results of its oversight activities to the OST. “
The report further identified several gaps in the follow-up activities of the TSB. For example, the office performed 285 compliance audits over the five-year audit period to ensure program integrity, but the process was limited.
âOST only examines a random selection of 20 transactions in most data analysis reports, instead of focusing its reviews on the transactions that appear to be the most risky,â the auditors said.
Surveillance activities were also cited for failing to ensure that the appropriate expenditure codes are used appropriately, thus undermining the certainty of the purpose of many purchases. In other cases, the cards were used after government cardholders were “severed from their jobs,” auditors said.
The report indicated that the rebates on expenditure cards amounted to $ 19.2 million during the audit period, which was sufficient to fully fund the budget of the TSB.
State Travel Director Garret DeBate endorsed a response letter with the nine recommendations of the Legislative Auditor’s report.
âOST is working to improve the analysis and reporting functions to improve the tracking of acquisition and travel card programs,â said DeBate. âWe appreciate the feedback provided by LLA to help OST improve these programs in the future. “
By William Patrick for Place du Center