Although a summary of its report was released by the auditor general’s office earlier this week, a government audit of fuel usage at the North Sound Road fuel depot has identified specific instances where gas cards may have been abused by public sector employees.
The Internal Audit Unit report, actually completed in August 2011, but made public by the auditor general’s office on Wednesday, does not point at any individual instance where it believes the government fuel card system was defrauded. However, information contained in the report raises serious questions about what may have occurred during some of these transactions.
The report looked at a period between July 2009 and June 2010 and considered fuel usage by 10 different government departments or statutory agencies. It found in most cases that the use of those employee and vehicle fuel cards was not being monitored properly by management, leaving the system open to “potential abuse and fraud”.
For instance, the report found that close to half – 43 per cent – of the 378 active employee gas cards used during the period either belonged to individuals who were no longer employed by the department responsible for the fuel card or had no “business need for the card”.
“We were concerned that allowing driver cards of ex-employees and employees who do not have a business need for a card to remain active in the GASBOY system [the computer system used by the Department of Vehicle and Equipment Services to track fuel usage] might result in unauthorised usage,” the internal audit report stated. “This risk increases in situations where fuel consumption is no adequately monitored.”
The lack of monitoring had been going on for quite some time, according to information contained in the internal audit report.
Of the 97 ex-employee cards identified as still active within the 10 government entities as of July 2010, 13 of those employees were shown to have left their respective department before 2005. One employee that had a gas card assigned to them had left the Planning Department in August 2001; another who left the Health Services Authority in November 2002 still had a card assigned to them.
In addition, dozens of employees within the various government agencies had no effective termination date for their employment listed within the IRIS computer system. However, they had since left those departments, officials confirmed.
Internal Audit Unit work also identified instances where vehicle cards were used to purchase fuel twice within a 24-hour period or where an employee gas card was used for multiple fill-ups within the same hour.
“We understand that some of these transactions may be caused by legitimate business needs such as dollar limits on the cards causing employees to have multiple consecutive fuellings in order to fill the tank to capacity,” the audit report stated. “However, without proper monitoring and internal controls in place, it is difficult to determine whether fuel is being used for legitimate business purposes.”
A number of examples are listed with specific vehicles in the audit report. One example occurred with an unnamed vehicle being used by the Cayman Islands Airports Authority.
Audit records revealed that a vehicle, using card No. 2241, filled up 27.7 gallons at 2.43pm on 7 December, 2009. At 2.48pm of the same day – five minutes later – the same amount of petrol, 27.7 gallons was filled. Roughly the same thing occurred at different times on 21 December, 2009 and 7 January, 2010. Then the card No. 2241 was used at 9.27am on 29 January, 2010 to fill some 26.5 gallons and again at 9.32am the same day for the same amount. Then, three minutes later at 9.35am, the same card was used again to fill 9.3 gallons of petrol.
Although not referring to the same card used by the Cayman Islands Airports Authority, the Department of Agriculture provided a possible explanation for why this scenario could have happened in the audit report.
“… Fuel cards have a fixed dollar value limit and in these cases the fuel dollar value limit is exceeded before the tank is filled. The only way to complete the filling is to immediately do another transaction with the same card.”
Under the GASBOY system, separate cards are issued for vehicles and employees – so users have to swipe two cards before fuelling up.
Making the problem even more difficult to tackle for auditors, very few transactions recorded had odometer readings entered. The vehicle mileage should be entered for each fuelling, auditors said.
For the month of June 2010, only 112 odometer readings had been entered for 491 transactions.
“It was also noted that, on some fuel purchases, an incorrect odometer reading was entered; as evidenced by a decrease in odometer reading from one fuel purchase to the next,” the internal audit report read.