The city of Greensboro says it is unable report what over $147,000 in payments to Amazon were for.
GREENSBORO, NC — The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) works to influence governments and policy makers to advance localism as an alternative to global corporatism. The ILSR recently requested from the city of Greensboro records of all purchases made by the city from Amazon in 2016. The request was part of the ILSR’s effort to document how Amazon affects local economies (article here, report here), but the city’s reply should be of particular interest to the people of Greensboro.
According to the records provided by Greensboro in response to the request, there were 1,375 purchases by city government from Amazon in 2016. They ranged in amount from $1.06 to $2,322.00. The total spent with Amazon in 2016 was $147,755.62.
The records show that the payments were made to a variety of Amazon entities, including Amazon.com, Amazon Marketplace and AmazonPrime Membership. The majority of these payments were made through “p-cards” — short for purchase card, which is a type of debit card the city issues to some employees who need an easy way to make city-related purchases.
What, then, were these purchases from Amazon for, specifically?
In reply to the ILSR’s request, the city told ILSR that it is “unable to run a report that captures descriptive information regarding the items purchased.” All the city supplied was the date, amount and vendor name; not a description of the item or service purchased.
So it remains a mystery what these purchases from Amazon were for. However, seeing 14 transactions paid to the vendor AmazonPrime Membership raises questions about how strictly the city assures these p-card purchases are legitimate. (4 of the 14 payments to AmazonPrime Membership were later reversed, according to the records provided by the city to ILSR.)
This inquiry was just for one vendor — Amazon. How many hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of city dollars are being spent through these p-cards? And on what? The city should be able to tell us.