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The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) conducted this audit of non-senior staff travel based on earlier OIG reviews that found travel problems by some senior Smithsonian management and weaknesses in oversight of executive-level travel. Our objective in the audit was to assess whether the Smithsonian used the results of the OC Compliance Review Reports of Non-Senior Travel (OC reports) to hold individual travelers accountable and to bring about improvement in travel management.
Smithsonian researchers travel the world to collect objects, specimens, and data. Researchers also present the results of their work at numerous conferences and meetings in the United States and foreign countries. In addition, staff engage in fundraising activities that require travel to meet with donors. As such, travel at the Smithsonian is critical to its mission of increasing and diffusing knowledge. During fiscal years 2008 to 2010, Smithsonian non-senior travelers from 56 units took 33,458 trips totaling over $42 million.
In accordance with our audit objective, we determined that the Smithsonian generally used the OC reports to hold individual travelers accountable and improve its travel management program. However, some underlying problems remain uncorrected.
In an effort to understand why voucher problems still exist, we examined the voucher approval process. As a result of the problems we found, we identified system process improvements that would result in more accountability. We found systemic problems with voucher approvals and oversight of approvers. Based on our review of the OC reports and discussions with management, we concluded that:Unit travel approvers often did not effectively review the vouchers and supporting documentation. Supervisors often did not always effectively oversee approvers’ work.
Ineffective approvals and inadequate oversight of the travel process weaken internal controls and resulted in the Smithsonian reimbursing travelers for unauthorized expenses.
We recommended that the Under Secretary for Finance and Administration:
Management concurred with our findings and recommendations and has proposed corrective actions that will resolve the recommendations.