Wicomico Conducts Audit On Travel, Purchase Cards

SALISBURY – An audit of the county’s purchase and travel card program revealed issues with inactive cards, sales tax and more, according to a report presented this week.

On Tuesday, representatives with the Wicomico County Internal Auditor’s Office presented findings of a year-long examination into the county’s purchase and travel card program to the Wicomico County Council.

“We sought to gain an understanding of department level controls, analyze the card usage, and we evaluated the adherent to internal controls,” said Levin Hitchens, the county’s assistant internal auditor.

Hitchens said the county currently utilizes a purchase and travel card program to streamline to procurement process, reduce administrative costs and ensure prompt payment. Purchases and travel transactions are completed using cards issued to county employees.

“The purchase card system had previously ended in 2016, but had recently been reinstated in the past year or so,” he said.

Hitchens said that while a number of tests on the county’s program came back satisfactory, a few tests highlighted concerns.

“We performed extensive testing and over a dozen came back satisfactory,” he said. “We had some concerns and we will monitor those going forward.”

One of those concerns, Hitchens explained, was the number of purchase and travel cards issued. Of the 327 issued cards, 49 cards had no activity while 209 were active with 121 cards having less than $500 in purchases.

“We have a lot of cards in the county that don’t have activity,” he said. “While that’s not a problem, and it doesn’t cost us anything, it does technically open us up for more liability.”

Council President John Cannon noted that he was surprised by the number of transactions from the sheriff’s department. Of the $837,356 in transactions over the course of the year, more than $300,000 was accumulated with the department’s purchase and travel cards.

“I’m glad to see they are using it,” he said, “but it just seemed to me like that was an awful lot of activity to get to $300,000 when 121 cards only had $500 or less.”

Hitchens explained of the 209 active cards, 88 were used frequently.

“There’s 209 cards that are active in the system, but we essentially found that around 88 cards are really being used actively and a lot of those do come from the sheriff’s department,” he said.

Hitchens said the audit also revealed that many purchase and travel cards remained active weeks after an employee left a position.

“We would like to see the purchasing department work with [human resources] and take care of that when employees leave the door,” he said.

Lastly, Hitchens noted that many transactions on issued cards included state sales tax, which the county is exempt from paying.

“The county is not supposed to pay sales tax,” He said, “and while we are doing manual reimbursements, we would like to see that put into work more efficiently.”

Internal Auditor Steve Roser said each of the issues found in the audit will be reviewed by his staff.

“We are following up on all of the findings that we had indicated in this audit report,” he said.

With no further questions, the council voted unanimously to accept the audit report.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.