New Orleans City Council Members Charged $378,998 to Their City Credit Cards over 3 Years
Investigative auditors looking into New Orleans City Council members’ use of city credit cards found council members and/or their chiefs-of-staff charged $378,998 between June 2014 and September 2017.
The city’s operating budget authorizes council members to spend approximately $35,000 each every year to run their offices. Each council member is issued a city credit card and may get an additional card for his or her chief-of-staff.
Auditors found that council members and/or their chiefs-of-staff charged at least $13,747 to pay for celebratory functions and buy gifts between June 2014 and September 2017. Of that, $6,754 was for celebratory functions and $6,993 was for floral arrangements, gift items, gift cards, and food. While the council’s credit card policy states gift cards may not be purchased, it does not mention floral arrangements, gifts, or food.
Auditors also could not find adequate documentation for 216 credit card purchases totaling $17,493 made by council members or their chiefs-of-staff, even though council policies require cardholders to obtain receipts and check them against monthly statements.
The audit found as well that council members and their staffs charged $121,986 in travel expenses for approximately 100 trips during the time period examined. However, neither completed travel authorization forms nor documentation of the business purpose of the trips was available, despite city policies requiring that information. As a result, auditors were unable to determine if the travel expenses were appropriate.
In addition, auditors noted that council members and their staffs spent $17,338 on cameras, refrigerators, office furniture, and computers and $36,126 for meals and catering. However, the council did not have written policies in place requiring equipment purchases to be tracked or the business purpose of meals and those attending to be documented.
Auditors concluded that council members appeared to be using their city credit cards as a procurement system rather than as a method of payment, which allowed them to initiate and approve their own purchases. As a result, the council’s central staff could not effectively oversee council members’ credit card use.
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