DAYTON — State watchdogs want to know why an Ohio state agency provides so many purchasing cards to its employees after an Ohio inspector general’s report found that one agency employee used a card to pay for his home heating for years.
The Ohio Inspector General’s report has called for a review of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources policy, the Dayton Daily News reported.
The purchasing cards are much like credit cards and carry the Visa logo. They allow state employees to buy goods and services needed for their jobs without having to request purchase orders, and they save the state from having to issue individual checks.
Vendors are immediately paid and Ohio pays the bank that issued the card after receiving a statement.
There have been 4,045 purchasing cards issued for the state’s 54,049 employees, and only one agency has even half the 1,216 cards issued by the Department of Natural Resources, according to the newspaper.
State watchdogs are questioning why the department provides purchasing cards to nearly a third of its 1,850 employees.
The inspector general’s report was issued last week after a finding that a supervisor at a fish hatchery in northern Ohio's Erie County had used a card to pay for propane to heat his home on hatchery grounds for more than a decade starting in 2000 — a practice that cost the state $5,163 since 2004.
The report calls for the department to review the necessity of issuing cards to so many employees and strengthen the review process for purchasing cards.
“The bigger concern grows out of what happened here,” Deputy Inspector General Carl Enslen said. “There was a great example of ODNR having a tough time managing the oversight of the use of the card in this particular instance.”
A spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources says that agency is reviewing the inspector general's investigation, which the department requested, and cooperated with the investigation of the hatchery employee.
“We also conducted an internal investigation which led to his termination in June,” spokesman Bethany McCorkle said.
The employee was charged in January with theft, but the charges were dropped in June, Ms. McCorkle said. The employee told state investigators that a supervisor told him he could charge the state for propane, though he was unable to name the supervisor or when he was told that, according to the inspector general’s report.
Ms. McCorkle said on Monday that the requested review has begun and the agency has 60 days to formally respond to the inspector general’s office.
The Department of Natural Resources is responsible for the state's nature conservation efforts, wildlife, and natural resources.