Raleigh, N.C. — Two state audits released Wednesday urged the Department of Public Instruction and the Department of Insurance to seek repayment from employees who obtained improper mileage reimbursements.
An unidentified DPI analyst filed travel reimbursements totaling $3,403 from October 2011 to June 2012, stating that she visited Midway High School and other nearby schools to provide Title I assistance. Officials from the various schools told auditors, however, that they never heard of the woman and never received any assistance, and auditors noted that the woman's supervisor and job description both stated she had no reason to travel outside her Raleigh office.
The analyst admitted to auditors that she never visited the schools but said that a manager told her to list schools near her home in Dunn to justify reimbursement for commuting costs to Raleigh after DPI shifted her to a home-based office. Auditors said they was no documentation for the change, and even if the woman was entitled to reimbursements, they said she intentionally misrepresented her travel from her Raleigh office and supervisors wrongly approved it.
A second audit noted that two DOI employees racked up an extra $3,817 in reimbursements during the 2011-12 fiscal year by overstating their travels by a combined 6,132 miles.
Auditors used Google maps to determine that one employee overstated the distance between his home office and trips to Greenville and Wilmington by up to 36 percent. The mileage estimates on his expense reports where inflated for almost three-quarters of his travels during the year, according to the audit.
The employee defended the extra mileage by noting that he often took circuitous routes to avoid traffic and to make extra stops that were not documented, but auditors noted that state regulations said such excuses aren't justified.
The second DOI employee told auditors that he got lost on a trip from Charlotte to Indianapolis, adding about 350 miles to his trip. Auditors determined he overstated the mileage claimed on his expense reports on about 20 percent of his trips during the year.
Auditors said DOI could have saved $13,400 if state-owned cars were issued to the people who traveled the most for the agency, instead of reimbursing them for using their own vehicles.
DOI said it would review expense reports for the two employees for fiscal 2011 and fiscal 2013, which ended in June, to determine if there were other overstatements. Also, the agency said supervisors would try to verify distances on expense reports filed by all DOI employees before approving them.
In addition to seeking any necessary repayments, DPI and DOI said they plan to take appropriate disciplinary action against the employees.