NHC workers spending tens of thousands at online retailers

NHC workers spending tens of thousands at online retailers
The nature of online purchases at mega retailers like amazon.com not easy to determine.

NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - On the week of Cyber Monday, we're looking at cyber shopping. Specifically online charges made with your tax dollars by New Hanover County employees.

In the first quarter of this fiscal year, county employees made over 200 purchases on amazon.com, totaling almost $20,000 in spending in just three months at the online powerhouse.

Amazon is an easy way to make personal and business purchases, but one glitch from an outside watch dog's perspective is it's not easy to police exactly what is being bought with your money.

We spent hours going through a stack of county credit card statements, which are lengthy partly because more than 200 county employees have a county issued charge card.

While we can see the vendor listed as Amazon for hundreds of charges, we'd have to ask for an itemized receipt for every single one of those charges to have a better idea if that money was well spent.

There are other variety retailers, like Walmart, where the county spends a lot of money. $4,490 in this particular three month period on 57 separate purchases both online and in store. Other common vendors that make it hard to decipher what the money went for include Pay Pal, Target, Best Buy and Costco.

These charges are over and above thousands of dollars in purchases at mainstream office suppliers like Staples and Office Depot where the nature of the purchase is more obvious.

A New Hanover County Spokeswoman says employees are required to sign a document committing to use their charge card for official use only. There are also dollar limits on transactions. Supervisors and employees both sign off on the monthly charges before the bills are paid.

Many private sector businesses don't issue credit cards to employees at all, and employees must seek reimbursement for any business related purchases which limits potentially frivolous spending.

New Hanover County has always provided detailed receipts when asked for previous stories. However the process to obtain those receipts is time consuming as they are not readily available.

Copyright 2016 WECT. All rights reserved.