|Public Release Date: January 23, 1998||No. 98-02|
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is responsible for managing public waters, lands, parks, forests, and minerals, as well as ensuring compliance with a broad range of regulations that affect natural resources. Mr. Rodney W. Sando has served as commissioner of the department since January 1991.
On April 4, 1997, a complainant contacted the Office of the Legislative Auditor with concerns regarding Commissioner Sando's travel expense reimbursement claims. Specifically, the complainant alleged the commissioner's mileage reimbursements were excessive. The complainant provided several expense reimbursement reports submitted by Commissioner Sando for reimbursement. We conducted a preliminary assessment, the purpose of which was to determine whether the situation warranted further review. Based on the documents submitted by the complainant and discussions with DNR personnel, we decided to pursue the matter further and issue a special report.
In conducting our investigation, we asked the following questions:
* Did Commissioner Sando submit mileage reimbursement claims in accordance with state travel policies and procedures?
* Were any instances of noncompliance indications of weaknesses in the department's review and approval of employee mileage reimbursement claims?
We found weaknesses in DNR's processing of employee expense claims as a result of our review. Generally, we found that: 1) The department did not ensure that its employees properly reported trip and local mileage. 2) The department did not verify that trip mileage claimed by employees coincided with official state mileage amounts. 3) The department did not require employees to provide details of specific destinations when incurring local mileage. 4) The department did not verify that employees reported the proper mileage when traveling to or from their homes. 5) The department did not comply with the state's travel policy concerning the issuance of control numbers. As a result of these weaknesses, we found certain instances where Commissioner Sando's mileage reimbursements did not comply with state travel policies and procedures. These instances resulted in our recommendation that the department seek a minimal repayment from Commissioner Sando. These weaknesses also may have resulted in inaccurate mileage reimbursements to other DNR employees.