DAYTON, Ohio – Procurement cards issued to school employees can lead to waste and abuse, if their use is not closely monitored.

In New York City in 2013, there was a limited audit of $238,070 spent by holders of procurement cards at 23 schools, according to the New York Post.

“Auditors flagged $75,967 in improper or questionable purchases, including excessive faculty meals and parties, Netflix subscriptions, windshield wipers, wine glasses, holiday cards, iTunes music, a stereo system, carpet and paintings,” the Post reported.

Nobody is suggesting that the Dayton, Ohio school district has similar problems. But it apparently uses P-cards extensively, particularly for travel expenses.

EAGnews.org recently obtained travel records for the Dayton district for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

The document provided by the district listed 1,367 travel-related payments for a very significant total of $598,096. But it didn’t provide much detail about trips taken by school personnel, and never mentioned destinations.

Many of the trips were likely for professional education conferences of various types, although many of the transactions listed on the travel document were simply labeled as “general.”

To make matters even more murky, 127 of the travel-related transactions were simply listed as P-card payments made by the district –and many of those payments were very large indeed.

The P-card total came to $365,409 – far more than half of the district’s total travel expense –  and the document did not specify what goods or services were purchased with the cards.

With that type of extensive use of P-cards for travel expenses, it’s probably safe to assume that at least a handful of improper purchases or transactions were made.

How many? Who knows. But the Dayton district does have a recent history of mishandling finances.

According to a report from the state of Ohio’s auditor, “Adventure Student Travel gave the district a quoted price of $19,600 for a two-day field trip to Cleveland that took place in May 2016. The district paid the amount in advance at the company’s request, requiring it to provide all invoices and receipts to the district treasurer’s office within 60 days.

“Auditors determined the company never submitted the required documents for the trip, which ended up costing $13,007. The company also neglected to refund the excess $6,593 or apply it as credit toward another trip.”

According to WHIO.com, the case mentioned above was “the second time in the past three years that Dayton Public Schools’ annual state audit has included a finding for recovery of improperly spent money. Of Montgomery County’s 16 public school districts, Dayton is the only one with any findings for recovery in the last three years’ audits.

“In the 2014-15 audit, DPS had no findings for recovery, but six noncompliance issues, including mishandling of payments from bond funds.

“In 2013-14, the audit said DPS wrongly made pay raises for a staff attorney retroactive. The attorney had to repay $7,192 to the district.”

The news service went on to explain that the Dayton district has also discovered some money management problems through its in-house auditing efforts.

“DPS auditor Randall Harper last year discovered that the gate receipts from five home football games, totaling $14,312, were never deposited.” WHIO.com reported.

Considering all of that, it might be wise for Dayton school officials to take a close look at P-card use, on a regular basis.

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