The Department of Administrative Services’ (DOAS) State Purchasing Division (SPD) and Office of Fleet Management (OFM), in cooperation with the Office of Planning and Budget (OPB), have published new, comprehensive Statewide Fuel Card Standards and Guidelines effective this month. The Standards provide guidance on the proper use and oversight of the Wright Express fuel card administered by DOAS. The fuel card is a charge card “designed to enable authorized State of Georgia employees to make fuel purchases for vehicles and equipment used for official state business.”
The new standards represent a significant rewrite of the previous fuel card policy that was part of the Georgia Fleet Management Manual. The Standards provide detail on the allowable uses of the “Gold Card” used for passenger carrying vehicles and other “vehicles and equipment capable of tracking meter readings” such as usage hours or mileage as well as the “Red Card” which will now be used in a much more limited and controlled capacity. With budget cuts and increased attention to spending, it is more important than ever to set clear standards on the allowable and prohibited uses of the cards. The ultimate goal is to define how, when and by whom the cards may be used and limit the possibilities of fraud and misuse of the cards.
In addition to the creation of specific guidelines and requirements for use, the Intergovernmental Services Agreement between DOAS and OPB will bring the strategic management and oversight of the fuel card program under a partnership between the office of the State Cards Program Manager and the Director of Fleet Management. Additionally, this agreement will call for the DOAS Process Improvement and Audits team to conduct “periodic reviews of the programs at entities under SPD purchasing authority.” According to the new standards, these reviews will “focus on the level of compliance with State Standards and Guidelines, adequacy of and compliance with internal policies and procedures, and evaluation of internal controls.”
As with the state’s purchasing card program, this approach to the proper management and oversight of the program will focus on identifying potential misuse of the cards and will result in more in-depth audits, which in turn will lead to investigations as needed. The project has already led to the discovery of two cases of misuse of the fuel cards that are under criminal investigation. The fuel cards are subject to the same standards as the purchasing cards under state law, which says “It shall be unlawful for any person to obtain for his or her own personal benefit, or for the benefit of any other person, any goods, services or other things of value, through any resource or method established pursuant to this article, including, but not limited to, purchase orders, government contracts, credit cards, charge cards or debit cards” (O.C.G.A. § 50-5-80 (b)).
Highlights of the new Standards include:
Definitions of the two card types and their specific uses
Detailed requirements for the issuance, use and management of Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) assigned to card users
Specific prohibition of the use of the cards for personal purchases
Descriptions of the roles of the various program participants including the card users, approving officials and program administrators
Explanation of the allowable and prohibited uses of the cards
Detailed information on Fuel Card program compliance as well as program specific safeguards
With proper use and management, the State of Georgia Fuel Cards remain a valuable procurement tool for the state. The cards are accepted at over 7,000 locations throughout the state and provide users with a reliable method of payment for fuel and minor services while conducting state business. The program facilitates the gathering of vital information and reporting used in the management of the state’s fleet of vehicles and equipment, enables the systematic removal of applicable taxes, and provides for the prevention of fraud and misuse through the use of system settings and monitoring software capable of preventing inappropriate use and identifying policy violations. Entities using the program will be required to adhere to the Statewide Fuel Card Standards and Guidelines and utilize the system features under the guidance of SPD and OFM.