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While the Smithsonian Institution had well-publicized problems involving travel abuse by several former senior executives more than 4 years ago, recent episodes elsewhere in government involving extravagant spending on conferences and travel highlight the need for continued vigilance in this important area.
We conducted this audit as a follow-up to earlier OIG reviews that found weaknesses in the oversight of travel.
We conducted this audit to assess whether (1) executive travelers complied with laws, regulations, and Smithsonian policies and procedures, including accompanying spousal travel; (2) travel management controls operated properly, including oversight by the Board of Regents and other authorities; and (3) travel was for authorized purposes and for reasonable amounts.
Overall, we determined that the senior executive trips reviewed were for authorized purposes and travel expenses were reasonable. We also did not find any travel abuse or material violations of Smithsonian policies for the trips reviewed. However, we identified internal control weaknesses in the Smithsonian's policies and procedures. Specifically, we found that:
• Those approving or reviewing travel for senior executives are often organizationally removed from the travelers' units and do not have supervisory authority over travelers.
• The Smithsonian needs to develop and implement policies and procedures for earning and documenting compensatory time off for travel.
• Some of the trips sponsored by outside entities lacked proper documentation and were not included in the Smithsonian travel management system.
• Smithsonian staff used purchase orders to pay for travel expenses. However, travel expenses on purchase orders are not subject to review by an authorized travel approver.
• The Smithsonian needs to update and enforce the Overseas Tour Renewal Agreement Travel policy for permitting an employee and immediate family to return to their place of residence.
We made eight recommendations for the Smithsonian to strengthen and update policies and procedures related to the oversight and execution of travel.
Management and the Board of Regents concurred with our findings and recommendations and have proposed corrective actions to address the recommendations. We will continue to monitor their progress towards completion of these recommendations.