Purchasing cards used by Brookhaven city employees will have a tighter review system—including the ability to monitor and block card purchases in real time.

Brookhaven City Council on Oct. 27 approved the new system and policy for the so-called p-cards.

“I think the key thing here is accountability,” said city Finance Director Carl Stephens.

Purchasing cards are a type of charge card that dispenses money from city funds. About nine city employees currently use p-cards, according to City Manager Marie Garrett. The mayor and City Council members are not among them.

Brookhaven has not had major issues with its previous p-cards. But the council decided to tighten and modernize the system in the wake of DeKalb County’s corruption scandals, which included personal purchases on government p-cards by such officials as former Commissioner Elaine Boyer.

“We’ve been doing that since Day One,” said Mayor Rebecca Chase Williams about review of city p-card use. But the new policy is “very clear, very tough,” she said.

The city’s existing p-cards work like regular charge cards, without special monitoring. Employees often must submit paper receipts. Also, even though government purchases are generally exempt from sales tax, there’s no easy way to that with the current cards.

The new Bank of America, Visa-brand p-cards will run on a new state system that changes many of those practices. All card use is tracked and recorded on an internal database and can be viewed by an administrator. The cards will have the city’s name and emblem to make tax-exempt purchasing easier. And specific vendors or types of purchases, such as liquor stores, can be automatically blocked both ahead of time and at the time of use.

Misuse of the card can result in firing and criminal charges, city officials said.

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.