ST. JOHN’S, NL — Opposition finance critic Tony Wakeham is calling for a review of credit card usage among government employees after the auditor general’s annual report released Monday, Jan. 31, showed at least 30 public servants had used corporate credit cards for personal use.
“It is concerning because it seems to be pervasive across numerous departments, and so the question becomes how does it happen?” he said.
In an interview with The Telegram, Wakeham had a number of questions.
“How many cards have actually been issued to employees in government departments? What’s the historical usage of those cards? Why were they introduced in those particular circumstances in those particular departments? Is there a better way to do business?”
He said there should be an educational program for public servants about appropriate usage of government-issued cards.
“Obviously, government has a responsibility to ensure that taxpayers’ money is protected, and you need to do that by making sure that they’re proactive and have risk management in place, and a preventive plan in place that basically doesn’t allow this type of situation to happen.”
Finance Minister Siobhan Coady told The Telegram the government has a robust process for fraud management.
“That’s why you’re seeing none of these (incidents) resulted in any monetary loss,” she said.
Coady said if a department finds inappropriate activity while reviewing transactions or reconciling statements, it investigates and sends the information to the Office of the Comptroller General for review, and an audit committee may also do a review. As well, the information is sent to the auditor general for oversight.
Coady admitted 30 employees is a “significant number,” but added, “On the other side of it, the controls and mechanisms are in place to ensure that that oversight is there. So, there’s no monetary loss.”
Asked why just one employee of the 30 was fired over the credit card misuse, Coady said she can’t comment on specific instances, but the government ensures “the approach that we’re taking with any particular employee is the right approach from a human -resources perspective.”
‘One is one too many’
Meanwhile, the auditor general’s report also said an investigation is ongoing within a division of the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure about “relationships between certain employees and vendors.”
The Telegram asked Transportation and Infrastructure Minister Elvis Loveless to elaborate on that situation.
He said the matters are suspected fraud, and the department has a process to detect fraudulent activity to ensure taxpayers are protected.
In addition to the 30 employees found to have misused credit cards, his department has another nine employees who are under investigation for the same.
“One is one too many,” Loveless said, adding they are human-resource matters, so he couldn’t comment in detail other than to say an investigation is ongoing.