Missouri State Agencies Fact-Check Themselves
My recent post about how government agencies in Missouri spent $2,047,457.28 on Credit Card Fees and $17,940.49 on Late Payment Penalty Charges during 2009 has generated some interest! The KC Prime Buzz blog and the Political Fix blog both linked to it.
The Political Fix blog initially titled its article “Missouri state agencies fact check blogger,” later changing it to “Credit check: State agencies dispute Show-Me Institute figures.” Both titles misrepresent the truth. The numbers that I reported were produced by Missouri government agencies, not by the Show-Me Institute or myself. The data in the “Show Me: The Spending” web tool comes directly from the Missouri Accountability Portal, which contains information reported and distributed by the state of Missouri.
I spoke with Lorna Domke, outreach and education chief for the Missouri Department of Conservation, who checked with her accounting office and discovered that funds had been misallocated. In an email, she provided the following clarification to me:
Our contracting services for our Permits sales system (“POS system”) should have been through an object code #2496, “other business services.” That category should have had $1.789 million put in it instead of in the object code #2487, “credit card fees.”
Her numbers check out. I isolated these numbers in the Show-Me: The Spending web tool, and then I exported the relevant data to Excel to combine into the following graph. In 2009, the department’s expenditures on credit card fees increased by about $1.7 million and its expenditures on “other business services” decreased by the same amount.
According to her email, the correct FY09 credit card fees total should have been $31,616 and the correct FY08 credit card fees should have been $32,439.
I also asked Ms. Damke if she could define this category for me, because some of our blog readers raised questions about which types of fees it might contain. In the email, she provided the following clarification:
“Expenditures for the fees incurred when accepting payment by credit card.”
Credit card companies will charge the vendor (our Nature Shops in our case ) a fee of a few% of purchase plus 20 or 30 cents per transaction for each purchase, depending on the agreement. So our credit card fees are only for paying the credit card company for being able to accept credit cards for payments. They do not include any interest, late fees, etc.<just the regular fees for accepting credit cards.
At the Show-Me Institute, we’re glad to see that the Department of Conservation admitted that it made a mistake in coding its expenditures. It would be nice if they could get it right the first time. It would also be nice if other departments would also check their numbers. As reported on the Political Fix blog:
Department of Public Safety officials said the figure is misleading, and does not represent late payments from the department.
The Department of Public Safety should check with its own accounting office, because that’s the origin of the numbers that I reported.