D.C. investigates credit cards issued to staff

Local,Bill Myers

The investigative arm of the District of Columbia’s finance office is probing the city’s multimillion dollar credit card program, a few months after the federal government audit blasted the District’s chaotic procurement process, a top official acknowledged Wednesday.

D.C. officials spent at least $17.4 million on their government-issued credit cards between 2005 and 2007, documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show.

But details on the expenditures were sketchy, in part because key records were subject to a citywide investigation by internal inspectors in the finance office, Office of Procurement lawyer Nancy Haperman said in a letter to The Examiner.

"This draft audit reports [sic] contains information regarding deficiencies and recommendations for improvement," Haperman’s letter states.

D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi has endured increasing criticism for not taking a more aggressive approach to corruption and waste in the city agencies his employees monitor.

A recent Government Accountability Office report criticized Gandhi for lax guardianship over the city’s $1.9 billion procurement system, which includes the government-issued credit cards. The chaos and absence of accountability in procurement allows corruption to fester and drives up the cost of doing business in D.C., the GAO concluded.

Neither Maryann Young nor Eric Balliet, Gandhi’s spokespeople, responded to requests for comment.

At least 505 D.C. employees were issued credit cards between 2005 and 2007, the procurement documents state. The cards carry a a debt limit of nearly $12 million per month.

The Examiner is reviewing some 54,000 records on city credits, all obtained under the Freedom of Information Act. But the records already have raised questions in at least one case.

Mayoral aide Alfonza Fitzgerald was issued six credit cards, for a credit limit of $105,000 per month, the records show.

Fitzgerald was reprimanded in 2002 for using public funds to pay a private group with ties to the re-election campaign of then-mayor Anthony A. Williams.

Fitzgerald referred calls to mayoral spokeswoman Mafara Hobson. She said Fitzgerald was only issued four credit cards. She refused to answer any further questions.

Fitzgerald spent more than $109,000 on his government credit cards between 2005 and 2007, procurement records show.

Anyone with information on the city’s credit card program can call Bill Myers at 202-459-4956 or send an e-mail to bmyers@dcexaminer.com.

View the complete credit card list to know which city employees were issued government credit cards from Jan. 1, 2005 until Jan. 31, 2007, and the daily and monthly the spending limits on their cards.

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