Virginia state agencies are urged to no longer identify for the public which employees are spending on government credit cards, officials said.
The recommendation, coming from the State Accounts Department at the behest of a bank, appears to contradict the Virginia Freedom of Information Act, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
State comptroller David Von Moll said the Accounts Department began giving the advice to all state agencies in early 2020. He said it was in response to Bank of America , the state credit card provider, when it recommended to the ministry in 2019 that agencies not give out the name of a state credit card holder to just anyone.
âThe first step in committing identity fraud is basically knowing the name of the cardholder,â Von Moll said in an interview. âWe have taken the position, as part of internal control, that the names of cardholders should be withheld. “
Megan Rhyne, executive director of the nonprofit Virginia Coalition for Open Government, said the department’s advice was wrong. The state’s Freedom of Information Act states that the public cannot be denied access to a government employee’s compensation or expense reimbursement records.
Rhyne said she was unaware of a time when someone committed identity theft simply by having the name of a government employee using a credit card. It’s important to see how some workers spend money, she said.
âIt shows us the actions of the person who can abuse the credit card system, and if it is not done by name, it means that person is avoiding scrutiny and avoiding liability,â Rhyne said.
William Turner, a former chairman of the Accomack County Board of Supervisors, had received previously public documents so he could research unnecessary government spending.
But when Turner said he requested credit card expenses from a court worker, the Virginia Supreme Court’s executive secretary’s office told him last month that he could no longer get such records in reason for the new notice.
Instead, the executive secretary provided a list of monetary expenses for the entire agency that lacked knowledge of who spent the money or what it was spent on, according to the newspaper.
Alisa Padden, director of legislative and public relations in the office of the executive secretary, said future requests for public records on credit card spending would provide information on how the money was spent, but not the list of names of cardholders.
Attorney General-elect Jason Miyares is concerned about the new guidelines.
âAs taxpayers, the citizens of Virginia deserve to know how their money is being used. Removing the cardholder’s name from a state-issued credit card, along with any description of the purchase, creates unnecessary secrecy between government officials and the public about how their taxes are spent â Miyares said in a written statement.