There’s A Reason We Don’t Trust Them

It’s crap like this that just adds to my desire to see public schools dismantled.

Dallas school Superintendent Michael Hinojosa terminated DISD’s credit card program Tuesday, saying employees who abused their cards will be forced to repay the district and could face criminal prosecution.

Dr. Hinojosa said that he expects to suspend “more than a handful” of employees for their credit card use when they return to work next week as an investigation into the spending gets under way. Dallas Independent School District offices have been closed for summer vacation since July 3.

Flanked by four members of the Dallas school board, Dr. Hinojosa said that he would hire an outside company to scour district purchases for credit card abuse. He said the company, which he did not name, would have experience investigating white-collar crime.

“We will start with the most egregious violators,” Dr. Hinojosa said.

“No one will be exempt from this review regardless of their stature or tenure in the district.”

The action comes in response to an investigation by The Dallas Morning News into district credit card spending. Using district records, The News examined more than 155,000 credit card transactions over two years and found more than $6 million in purchases that either violated state procurement laws or district policy.

The News also found hundreds of purchases that seemed to have little to do with educating children, such as iPods, lawn ornaments, gift cards and a subscription to an online dating service.

I’ve known since the uproar over standardized testing that the education establishment didn’t like the idea of accountability.  This just confirms that it’s embedded in their DNA. 

Still, I’m a bit amazed that anyone would give an employee a credit card and not demand any sort of accountability.  As an example, here are a few of the highpoints of the rules and processes for my corporate AmEx:

  • The card is issued in my name, and I’m responsible for making the payments.
  • Any business expenses that I incur have to be submitted via an online expense account system.
  • The expense account system routes the request to my manager (or some other designee) for approval before payment is issued.
  • Major travel expenses (airfare, hotels, car rental) must be made via the corporate card.
  • The online expense account system is tied to the AmEx account (and in some cases can automatically itemize them if the purchase was with a vendor who includes the right information).
  • The expense account system automatically routes payment to AmEx for approved items that were purchased with the card.

In the article it mentioned that most of the cards were issued to do away with the cost of handling purchase orders for “low-cost, everyday items.”  For that sort of thing we have a couple of options.  There’s an online purchasing application that has thousands of items available.  Or, if it’s an emergency, you could purchase it yourself (directly or with the AmEx) and get reimbursed.  Both methods require manager approval, so the expenses are controlled.

I may complain about bean-counters a lot, but they do know a thing or two about accountability and controlling expenses.  It seems to me that DISD needs a dose of private-sector bean-counter business controls.

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