More on New Orleans Fraud Prevention

Post statements for government credit cards online: An editorial

New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux is doing right by the public in posting his office’s monthly credit card statements online. Other government entities across our region should do the same. The inspector general this week announced that statements for his city-issued credit card will be posted in the Public Records section of the office’s website, at http://www.nolaoig.org.

“The citizens have a right to know how we spend city funds, and this is one small part of providing them with that information,” Mr. Quatrevaux said.

Credit card abuse has been rampant across several public agencies in our metro area in recent years. Earlier this month, former French Market Corp. director Kenneth Ferdinand was charged with a single count of felony theft. The charge came almost a year after the agency’s board pushed Mr. Ferdinand out amid questions about $20,000 in credit card charges he made, mostly in restaurant and for bar tabs.

But Mr. Ferdinand was a relative penny-pincher compared to Jim Bridger, the former head of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad. Between 2007 and 2009, Mr. Bridger charged more than $108,000 to the agency’s credit card, including routine meals and alcohol at local eateries. In a stunning dearth of accountability, auditors found that 700 of Mr. Bridger’s 801 charges lacked detailed receipts or any receipts at all. Mr. Bridger faces state charges of malfeasance in office and felony theft for other alleged abuses unrelated to his credit card use, though federal investigators are still probing his actions.

The list goes on. In the past two years, scandals involving credit card abuse have rocked Mandeville city government, Louis Armstrong International Airport, the Louisiana High School Athletic Association and separate housing agencies in Slidell and Jefferson and St. John the Baptist parishes.

The best solution is to cut up public credit cards or at least to severely limit their use. Legislative auditors also have advised establishing clear credit card policies and banning charges for entertainment and gifts. Those are necessary steps.

But they are not enough. Every public entity in our metro area that allows employees to use credit cards should follow Mr. Quatrevaux’s lead and post the card statements online. Knowing that the public can easily review all charges would force public officials and employees to evaluate whether an expense truly serves a public purpose.

That alone could go a long way toward preventing further credit card abuses.

3 Responses to “More on New Orleans Fraud Prevention”

  1. Augusta Duffer Says:

    Every govenrment employee is going to say that the cards are necessary for hotel reservations as their crutch for having them. If that is the crutch that they are using, then that should be the only purchases allowed to be on the card. Any other use of the cards should be reimbursed by the employee and lead to their card being cancelled. Also, each agency should only have one card, not employees having cards for themselves. That one card should also have a check in/out log for it, with use of the card only being allowed during business hours.

  2. sunrisesunset Says:

    Wish the rules New Orleans is implementing would drift northward into Jackson Parish…..specifically, the Town Hall.

  3. Retail Theft Prevention Says:

    Petty Theft…

    […]More on New Orleans Fraud Prevention « Lincoln Parish News Online[…]…

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