Report: No top-down oversight for state travel

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The state of Michigan spends at least $40 million a year for employees’ travel, but there are inconsistencies in reporting and no high-level oversight, a newspaper investigation found.

The Lansing State Journal reported Sunday that nobody in state government is responsible for analyzing actual costs incurred by departments for employees’ work-related travel expenses. Each agency or department handles its own expenses.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder’s spokeswoman Sara Wurfel says they “do a solid job of monitoring travel” and are “well-equipped to make decisions” about their needs.

“We have communicated clear standards, along with the guiding principle of fiscal responsibility,” Wurfel said.

The newspaper reported the $40.5 million the state spent last year for such travel is an “inconclusive, minimum figure.” Although that’s about one-tenth of 1 percent of the state’s $48.2 billion budget, it represents enough money to cover the operations of some smaller departments and the auditor general’s office has not conducted an independent review of statewide travel costs.

The newspaper also found that the State Budget Office, a division of the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, doesn’t keep some of the out-of-state travel reports it’s required to receive for more than a few months. They aren’t reviewed by the budget office or by the state’s legislative appropriations committees, which also get them as required by law.
In one instance, total travel costs listed online for fiscal year 2012 did not match a report submitted to legislators. The state attorney general’s office reported it spent about $356,000 on travel but the office’s website reported about $655,000.

Attorney general spokeswoman Joy Yearout said the difference comes from which costs are reported as travel expenses. The office didn’t include state-owned vehicle usage in its legislative report because workers don’t receive money back for that.

The newspaper found discrepancies among other departments related to how various expenses are reported.


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