Thursday, May 30, 2024

Audit finds Louisiana official made $18K worth of unauthorized purchases

by BIZ Magazine

By Victor Skinner | The Center Square contributor

The former executive director of the Louisiana Board of Examiners of Nursing Facility Administrators allegedly made more than $18,000 in unauthorized charges on his office credit card, according to the Louisiana Legislative Auditor.

Auditor Mike Waguespack issued an investigative report for the LBENFA last week that highlighted thousands of dollars in questionable purchases by former executive director Mark Hebert, including several items that were shipped to his personal residence.

“Former LABENFA Executive Director Mark Hebert used his office-issued credit card to incur charges totaling $98,080 from June 2019 through July 2022. During our audit, we identified charges totaling $18,979 that either appear personal in nature or did not have a clear business purpose,” the report read.

“In addition, records show several items purchased by Mr. Hebert were shipped directly to his personal residence, and items totaling at least $7,677 were stored at his personal residence,” auditors wrote.

The questionable purchases involved $16,317 in electronics and related accessories between July 2019 and May 2022, including four different Samsung Galaxy phones totaling $3,704; two Galaxy tablets totaling $1,340; related accessories, such as cases, stands, and earbuds for the phones and tablets totaling $795; and a $261 smartwatch.

“We found items purchased totaling $7,064 either had no clear business purpose, were stored at Mr. Herbert’s personal residence, or could not be located,” according to the audit.

Hebert later returned many times from his home, including two tablets, a safe, and a robotic vacuum cleaner.

Other questionable costs involved $3,436 in home internet service from July 2019 to March 2022. While Hebert claimed the now deceased former chairman of the LABENFA board approved the payments due to COVID, auditors noted the charges started well before the pandemic and continued after Hebert returned to the office. Auditors also could not confirm Hebert gained the proper approval for the charges.

Auditors also uncovered $6,035 in questionable charges for equipment and accessories purchased between June 2020 and May 2022, including many items stored at his home. Hebert later rented a storage unit and transferred items from his home, including two gas generators, a gas caddy, gas cans, generator tent canopy covers, a portable air conditioner, mini refrigerator, fans, extension cords, lights, a tire inflator, and several drills and other tools.

Auditors also flagged $2,444 in recurring subscription services, such as television services, streaming services, newspaper subscriptions, satellite radio, software, extended warranties, and personal membership dues at Walmart and Amazon.

The LLA recommended “the Board seek reimbursement for all personal charges incurred and adopt detailed policies and purchasing procedures for the use of credit cards.”

LBENFA Chair Jamie Shelton responded to the audit report in a letter to Waguespack on Feb. 8 that detailed how the agency has improved, and vowed to “seek restitution for these funds, as identified in the Louisiana Legislative Audit report, through whatever legal means are necessary.”

Hebert’s attorney, John McLindon, also responded to the report with a letter to Waguespack on Feb. 10 that offered explanations for the questionable purchases, many of which McLindon argued were business related.

Many of the items were stored at Hebert’s home to save on storage costs, and purchases were sent to Hebert’s address to prevent theft, McLindon wrote.

“The Board was well aware of the amount of time that Mr. Hebert spent in his role as Director,” he wrote. “He was available at all hours of the day and night in order to service the needs of the organization as well as administrators and owners. The electronic items listed above were used so that he could perform his job better and more efficiently.”

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