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Bose speakers, Fossil bag purchases called 'inappropriate' by Halifax AG

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 2019-05-15 Pam Berman
a person standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Halifax auditor general Evangeline Colman-Sadd says she couldn't determine if any of the sampled purchases were fraudulent because they didn't do a forensic audit. © Robert Short/CBC Halifax auditor general Evangeline Colman-Sadd says she couldn't determine if any of the sampled purchases were fraudulent because they didn't do a forensic audit.

Halifax's auditor general says "inappropriate" purchases of high-end laptop bags, Apple AirPods headphones and Bose bluetooth speakers were made using municipal credit cards.

In a report released Wednesday, Evangeline Colman-Sadd discovered poor management oversight in a sample of 30 purchases made using the city's 535 credit cards in 2017.

"I don't think cell phone cases that are costly, Bose speakers or Fossil bags are a reasonable use of taxpayer money," she said.

"There needs to be better processes in place to make sure policies are complied with."

In 2017, $5 million worth of items were purchased using the cards.

There were issues with the 30 sample purchases that were examined, which included missing receipts, a reliance on electronic signatures and a lack of enforcement about purchasing policies.

Transportation and Public Works employee singled out

One employee in the Transportation and Public Works department merited special attention, so auditors reviewed their credit card statements between December 2015 and December 2018.

Over that period, there were 48 purchases totalling $8,990 that were missing receipts.

Close to $32,000 worth of items should not have been allowed, including computer monitors, laptops and printers, should have been purchased by the IT department.

While there were purchases of "inappropriate" items, the auditor general said she could not conclude if there was any fraud.

"We did not do a forensic audit, so I can't say definitely," said Colman-Sadd. "But if I had felt that there was something that needed to be turned over to the police, I would have."

Colman-Sadd pointed out that the employee's manager was aware of the purchases and in some cases the items were purchased for the manager.

'I'm shocked,' says councillor

Members of the audit and finance committee were not impressed with the findings.

"I am disappointed," said Coun. Bill Karsten. "I certainly thought these things were being addressed over the years."

"It's the same thing over and over again," said Coun. Lorelei Nicoll. "And it's getting frustrating, demoralizing and discouraging."

"I'm shocked," said Coun. Matt Whitman.

Council accepts recommendations

Halifax's chief financial officer, Jane Fraser, said all of the auditor general's recommendations for improvements have been accepted.

She told the audit committee that she would bring back a progress report in the fall of 2019.

After the report was presented, the audit committee went behind closed doors to discuss a personnel issue.

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