MACON, GA — Macon-Bibb County just changed its card spending rules for food purchases by city workers, but before that change, our #13Investigates team was already digging through the figures.
It turns out food is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the county's credit and purchase card spending.
Our figures show for the spending year that ended on June 30, 2018, Macon-Bibb spent $1,777,351 using purchase cards. That's around $34,180 a week, or $6,836 each weekday.
"It's a large government. We have over 30 departments," said county manager Keith Moffett. "Out of a $160 million budget, $1.7 million is just a small part of that and those purchase card purchases are already approved as part of the departmental daily operation."
So how does that compare to Houston County which has roughly the same population?
Since Macon-Bibb is a consolidated government, we combined Houston County's card spending with Warner Robins, Perry and Centerville. Here's how it looks:
Macon-Bibb Spending 2017-2018 Fiscal Year:
- Total= $1,777,351
- Houston County $111,861
- Warner Robins $200,904
- Perry $124,540
- Centerville $173,761
That means Macon-Bibb takes about four months to spend what the other four governments in Houston County combined spend on card purchases for the entire year.
Moffett says Bibb County's reliance on the cards is a sign of the times. He says they actually cut down on paperwork and speed up payments.
"The cards are in accordance with how times have changed and how people are making purchases and I think it's bringing us more up to date with technology and it saves us time and hopefully at the end of the day it saves us money," he said.
But over in Houston County, they aren't as enthusiastic about the cards.
Houston County director of administration Barry Holland says, "We have 700+ employees. If you have a large number of P-cards out there, they take an incredible amount of time to track and reconcile each month. There is the unfortunate opportunity for fraud, so we made that choice not to use the P-cards".
Houston County keeps around one dozen cards, while Macon-Bibb has more than 100.
But in Bibb County, Moffett says he believes the new spending system they just put in -- along with regular audits -- will keep everyone in check.
"We've identified a purchase card administrator," Moffett said. "The policy before just had it on the Finance Department, so now we have a designated person along with myself. We review these purchase card statements".
The internal audit for the budget year that just ended isn't ready yet, but 13WMAZ is keeping an eye out for it, but we do have the audit for 2016-17.
The county tells us that most of the areas flagged were either employees not turning in information as quickly as required.
What appeared to be an alcohol charge was actually a coding error by Fazoli's Restaurant, which doesn't even sell alcohol, and what appeared to be a purchase at a women's clothing store was actually for approved monogramming on uniforms for workers stationed at Lake Tobesofkee.
A few highlights from the numbers we looked through for 2017-2018?
How about spending $56,812 at Staples in just three months? That's in addition to other office supply companies like Middle Georgia Paper Company and Office Depot.
A worker also bought several 5K race entries and they say the sheriff's department and recreation department often buys food for kids when they are hosting community or neighborhood events.