Employees spent $246,000 on fast food with state credit cards

While McDonald’s was the most popular location, with 776 transactions recorded in the database, more money was spent at four restaurants than the approximately $8,900 expended at the world’s largest fast food chain. Chick-fil-A, which was third in number of purchases, saw about $25,100 spent at its many locations, including 78 purchases of more than $100. There were 621 transactions totaling about $12,800 at Dunkin’ Donuts, more than 70 percent of which were for less than $20. Delaware employees patronized the myriad Starbucks outlets around the country to the tune of almost $3,600 on 458 transactions. Delaware State News photos

DOVER — State government employees are lovin’ it.

The tens of thousands of people employed by Delaware reported charging to their state credit cards almost a quarter million dollars at businesses classified as fast food establishments or restaurants in the fiscal year ended June 30. McDonald’s saw the most transactions, while the biggest beneficiary in terms of money spent was Chick-fil-A.

Delaware’s online checkbook indicates state employees made almost 197,000 transactions totaling nearly $74 million for fiscal year 2019, which ran from July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019. (Technically, because the state’s financial system shuts down a few days before the end of the fiscal year, the tally actually ends June 27, 2019, and includes about 2,700 purchases from June 2018).

Almost 80,000 of those were for $100 or more, with around 13,000 transactions totaling at least four figures and eight surpassing $100,000. Those eight were categorized as either nondurable goods not elsewhere classified, convenience market supply vending machines or computer software, with six of the charges coming from the Department of Correction.

In total, about 6,900 entries collectively equaling a little more than $246,000 were recorded as being in the fast food/restaurant category. Almost 3,900 came from one of 20 establishments.

Delaware enables employees to obtain a state credit card, officially known as a PCard, for work-related expenses, partnering with JPMorgan Chase to oversee the program.

“The State of Delaware is liable for the use of the PCard,” reads Delaware’s accounting manual. “The card is backed by the full faith and credit of the State, not the credit of the employee. Only State employees are eligible for participation in the PCard program. State employees are defined as individuals who receive a paycheck through the Payroll Human Resource Statewide Technology (PHRST) system.”

Cards are generally granted to individuals with a “reasonable need,” chiefly travel stemming from their job duties.

Employees must present personal information like date of birth and home address to get a card, and they may have to undergo a personal credit history check first. Each worker can hold only one PCard.

Agencies are required to have strict guidelines around using the card and reporting expenses charged through it. The card can be utilized for expenses like airfare and train tickets, as well as meals while the holder is traveling for state business.

There are special requirements for purchases exceeding $5,000.

In general, an itemized receipt must be turned in to justify all expenses of more than $10.

Food

The state encourages employees to skip junk foods, in part because healthier workers mean lower health care costs. Because the database does not contain information on the contents of each transaction, displaying only the date, agency, location and category, it’s unclear how many people opted for salads over Big Macs, milkshakes and fried chicken.

While McDonald’s was the most popular location, with 776 transactions recorded in the database, more money was spent at four restaurants than the approximately $8,900 expended at the world’s largest fast food chain.

Chick-fil-A, which was third in number of purchases, saw about $25,100 spent at its many locations, including 78 purchases of more than $100. Nearly $20,300 was spent at the Delaware-based sandwich chain Capriotti’s, with 72 of its 145 charges exceeding $100.

There were 621 transactions totaling about $12,800 at Dunkin’ Donuts, more than 70 percent of which were for less than $20. Delaware employees patronized the myriad Starbucks outlets around the country to the tune of almost $3,600 on 458 transactions.

Despite just 66 charges reported, nearly $13,300 was spent at Taco Bell — an average of $201.26 per visit. Almost all of that came from Delaware Military Academy, with 33 purchases between $325.08 and $460.53.

There were 18 $1,000-plus entries for food in total, mostly for seminars or similar events. Three topped $2,000: two by the Department of Health and Social Services and one by the Department of Services for Children, Youth and their Families.

Attempts to contact the agencies for more details on those purchases were unsuccessful.

Food purchases were reported in at least 27 states, from Florida to Illinois to Utah (and, yes, dear old Delaware).

Airports show up over and over in the database, and purchases are reported as taking place in several sports stadiums, including the Cincinnati Reds’ Great American Ball Park, the Auburn Tigers’ Jordan–Hare Stadium and the former EverBank Field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

While some may see those as frivolous, such food purchases are allowed.

The three transactions totaling $36 at an Auburn football game, for instance, are from two bank examiners who spent a week and a half in Georgia last year.

The two were there “for a multi-state examination of a money transmitting company called InComm Financial Services” and paid for their own travel and tickets to the football game, according to Doug Denison, a spokesman for the Department of State.

After all, there’s no law that says workers can’t indulge in some fun activities on their time off.

Delaware provides money for lodging, travel, meals and incidentals (per diem) based on federal rates set for different locations. The meals and incidental per diem for most locations in the First State totals $55 per day, although it is $56 in Wilmington and $61 in Lewes. In New York City, it comes to $71 each day.

The accounting manual notes a reduction to the daily per diem will be made if the sponsoring state agency or entity “knows in advance a meal is to be provided without cost to the employee, e.g., included in a conference fee.”