State University Construction Fund

 

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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

State University Construction Fund
Selected Aspects of Discretionary Spending


Issued: September 19, 2014
Link to full audit report 2013-S-14
Link to 90-day response

Purpose
To determine whether the State University Construction Fund’s discretionary spending complied with its guidelines and was reasonable, adequately supported and properly approved. Our audit period was April 1, 2010 to December 31, 2012.

Background
The State University Construction Fund (Fund) was created in 1962 to expedite the completion of the $700 million master plan for the State University of New York (SUNY). This master plan enabled SUNY to accommodate twice the number of students enrolled (from 53,000 to 106,000). The Fund was established as a public benefit corporation whose sole mission was to act as an agent for SUNY to design, construct, acquire and improve State University facilities and to utilize a wide variety of public and private resources. To accomplish its mission, the Fund incurs direct costs for specific program purposes and it incurs indirect or “discretionary costs” that support overall objectives.

The audit identified a total of $4.6 million of Fund spending, which was discretionary in nature. Each public authority should have formal policies and procedures specifying which types of discretionary spending are appropriate and the dollar thresholds for each. In addition, the policies should state what type of supporting documentation and formal approvals are necessary for such spending.

Key Findings

We reviewed a judgmental sample of 327 discretionary payments totaling $248,205. Of that amount, we found that payments totaling $181,855 (73 percent) fully complied with Fund guidelines. They appear reasonable, adequately supported and properly approved. However, we questioned payments totaling $66,350 that the Fund should examine and assess their propriety, including:

  • $47,458 for travel by other than the Fund’s preferred mode and without proper supporting documentation to justify such travel;
  • $3,392 for food purchases that had not been approved in advance as required by Fund policy; and
  • $15,500 for training with no written justification of the business need, including $12,500 for two separate three-day conferences that each provided only eight hours of total training.

Key Recommendatios

  • Examine written policies and procedures to determine if they adequately address the various forms of discretionary spending. The review should include (but not be limited to) definitions of such costs, necessary justifications, dollar thresholds, formal approvals and required supporting documentation.

Other Related Audits/Reports of Interest

Battery Park City Authority: Selected Aspects of Discretionary Spending (2012-S-158)


State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Carmen Maldonado
Phone: (212) 417-5200; 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