Disappearing ink on thermal vanishing paper and a clueless janitor have been blamed for missing records at the San Diego Unified School District that a recent audit says could represent only the tip of a massive charge-card debacle. “Due to weaknesses in the systems of internal controls we found that the P-Card program was exposed to a high risk for improper transactions and the potential misuse and abuse of San Diego Unified School District resources,” says the May 17 document.
P-Cards, explains the audit, are used by school district workers “in a manner similar to a commercial or personal credit card. The P-Cardholder, the individual listed on the P-Card, is the only authorized individual to make purchases using that card.” The system is supposed to provide “a method to obtain low cost goods without the intervention of the Strategic Sourcing and Contracts Department’s in the purchasing process.”
However, the report adds, unless proper records are kept, public money can be placed in jeopardy, because the school district bears “responsibility for the payment of the balance for all non-protested charges to the individual P-Cards at the close of the statement period.” According to the auditors, “Our testing identified 22 locations that did not maintain the documentation needed to support 754 P-Card transactions. These totals represent 35 percent of the locations and 28 percent of the transactions selected for testing. Further, we identified 14 locations where 103 monthly P-Card transaction statements were not retained. These missing statements represent $97,910 of the value of the transactions we tested.”
Questioned about the lapses, district employees came up with a variety of explanations. “At Crawford High School the P-Cardholder told us that at least 12 months of records and supporting documentation for the P-Card could not be located. The documentation, according to the P-Cardholder, was boxed up to accommodate the movement of offices during a renovation project. The P-Cardholder stated a janitor removed several boxes, including the boxes of P-Card transactions, from the storage location and destroyed them. According to the P-Cardholder the boxes with the P-Card documentation were clearly marked ‘Do Not Destroy.’”
In another instance, “the viability of some of the documentation was impacted by the use of thermal paper for printing receipts and other documentation. The images on thermal paper have a limited duration and may begin to fade within 18 to 24 months after the printing of the receipt and documentation, making many of the images unreadable within 36 months from the receipt date.”