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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

Department of Transportation
Selected Employee Travel Expenses


Issued: February 18, 2014
Link to full audit report 2012-S-93
Link to 90-day response

Purpose
To determine whether the use of travel monies by selected government employees complied with rules and regulations and is free from fraud, waste, and abuse.

Background
New York State's executive agencies spend between $100 million and $150 million each year on travel expenses. These expenses, which are discretionary and under the control of agency management, include car rentals, meals, lodging, transportation, fuel, and incidental costs such as airline baggage and travel agency fees. As part of a statewide audit initiative to determine whether the use of travel money by selected government employees was appropriate, we audited travel expenses for the highest-cost travelers in the State. These travelers incurred over $100,000 in travel expenses during our three-year audit period and/or exhibited unusual travel characteristics.

We examined a total of $639,218 in travel expenses for 20 Department of Transportation (Department) employees. Of the 20 employees, eight had long-term assignments in Tarrytown, New York for work related to the Tappan Zee Bridge. From September 2007 through September 2011, the Department paid travel reimbursements to the eight Tarrytown employees totaling $320,756.

Key Findings

  • The Department's travel payments for the 12 employees who were not assigned to Tarrytown were correct. However, the Department incorrectly designated Poughkeepsie as the official station of the eight Tarrytown employees and, as a result, made improper travel reimbursements totaling $320,756 for the employees' normal commuting costs to and from work. Department officials attributed the error, in part, to the lack of management awareness of official State policies regarding travel reimbursements.
  • As a result of the improper travel reimbursements made to the eight Tarrytown employees, the Department may have failed to report nearly $227,000 in taxable travel expenses to taxing authorities for the three calendar years 2009-2011.

Key Recommendations

  • Ensure each employee's official station is established in compliance with State travel rules and is in the best interest of the State.
  • Work with the Comptroller's Division of Payroll, Accounting and Revenue Services to take any necessary corrective action related to the potential taxable status of the eight Tarrytown employees' commuting expenses.

Link to full audit report (2012-S-93)

Link to 90-day response

Other Related Audits/Reports of Interest

Department of Labor: Selected Employee Travel Expenses (2012-S-75)


State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: John Buyce
Phone: (518) 473-4271; Email: StateGovernmentAccountability@osc.state.ny.us
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236