| July 2, 2010

This week in government waste

A story last week reported that an Oklahoma State University employee used her university credit card to purchase "tens of thousands of dollars" of sex toys, lingerie and video games since last summer.

Sound familiar? It should, because this isn't the first time this has happened. In fact, a 2006 study by the Oklahoma Auditor and Inspector's Office found dozens of instances of improper use of state-issued credit cards by state employees. According to then State Auditor Jeff McMahan, auditors found employees using state credit cards to shop at places such as "Saks Fifth Avenue, pawn shops, convenience stores and video stores." Other questionable purchases included Christmas decorations, "smiling elephants," food, gasoline, travel and doughnuts for employees nearly every day, McMahan said.

These problems were discovered in a review of ONLY 609 of the nearly 80,000 (less than 1 percent) state credit card transactions made between July 1, 2004 and June 30, 2005 ─ transactions that totaled more than $18 million in taxpayer money. These reviews didn't include any of the transactions made by the Department of Education that year, which exceeded $92 million.

The findings were so astounding that McMahan called for investigative audits of every state issued credit card, which never happened, and more robust oversight, which has apparently fallen on deaf ears.

The employee in question resigned last week, while OSU officials said they intend to require more extensive "training" of employees with state-issued cards. Training is dandy, but real oversight and transparency of credit-card expenditures would go much further in protecting taxpayer dollars.

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