More than $5,000 of $188,074 in travel expenses submitted by a State University of New York administrative director who coordinates Board of Trustee meetings, strategic planning sessions and campus tours were not justified, according to an audit released Friday by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. The audit period was for April 1, 2008 through March 31, 2011.
The employee’s expenses ranked among the highest in the state for lodging, according to the audit. While most of the travel expenses (lodging, transportation and meals) were properly documented and adhere to state travel rules and regulations, that was not the case for $4,821 in car service charges and a $200 hotel room smoking charge, auditors found.
The administrative director incurred a $200 smoking charge for a room she stayed in during April 2010. SUNY system administration paid the charge and noted it would request a credit from the hotel. It never received the credit from the hotel or repayment by the employee, the audit said. DiNapoli recommend that the university system seek the reimbursement from the employee.
The $4,821 in car service charges were not appropriate because the state travel manual says agencies should ensure that employees use the most economical method of travel. The employee purchased car services 51 times during the audit period, totaling $8,793 for Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, members of the Board of Trustees, job candidates and other officials on SUNY-related business.
Most charges ranged from $80 to $150, auditors learned. Eleven transactions totaling $4,821 were for car services that cost $350 or more a day. For example, the chancellor traveled round-trip from Manhattan to Stony Brook one day at a cost of $735. Four other transactions for a board member who took two consecutive round-trip day trips totaled $690 and $674. There was no supporting documentation indicating special circumstances that warranted the expense or whether less expensive transportation was considered, the audit said.
SUNY officials said the car-service vendors they used between 2009 and early 2010 were expensive and the administration discontinued doing business with them. Auditors did not identify similarly high charges after January 2010.