The Ohio Inspector General's report has called for a review of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources policy, the Dayton Daily News reported.
The purchasing cards are much like credit cards and carry the Visa logo. They allow state employees to buy goods and services needed for their jobs without having to request purchase orders, and they save the state from having to issue individual checks. Vendors are immediately paid, and Ohio pays the bank that issued the card after receiving a statement.
There have been 4,045 purchasing cards issued for the state's 54,049 employees, and only one agency has even half the 1,216 cards issued by the Department of Natural Resources issues, according to the newspaper. State watchdogs are questioning why the department provides purchasing cards to nearly a third of its 1,850 employees.
The inspector general's report was issued last week after a finding that a supervisor at a fish hatchery in northern Ohio's Erie County had used a card to pay for propane to heat his home on hatchery grounds for more than a decade starting in 2000 — a practice that cost the state $5,163 since 2004. The report calls for the department to review the necessity of issuing cards to so many employees and strengthen the review process for purchasing cards.
"The bigger concern grows out of what happened here," Deputy Inspector General Carl Enslen said. "There was a great example of ODNR having a tough time managing the oversight of the use of the card in this particular instance."
The only agency with even half the 1,216 cards that the Department of Natural Resources issues is the Department of Transportation, which has 743 cards and 5,371 employees, the newspaper reported. Job and Family Services has 3,698 employees and 139 cards.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources says that agency is reviewing the inspector general's investigation, which the department requested, and cooperated with the investigation of the hatchery employee.
"We also conducted an internal investigation which led to his termination in June," spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle said.
The employee was charged in January with theft, but the charges were dropped in June, McCorkle said. The employee told state investigators that a supervisor told him he could charge the state for propane, though he was unable to name the supervisor or when he was told that, according to the inspector general's report.
McCorkle said Monday that the requested review has begun and the agency has 60 days to formally respond to the inspector general's office.
The Department of Natural Resources is responsible for the state's nature conservation efforts, wildlife and natural resources.