A state audit of N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI) travel costs has flagged more than $110,000 in unnecessary expenses, including one agency worker who collected $3,270 in "overstated" travel reports.
The 12-page audit, released Monday by State Auditor Beth Wood, said one unnamed DPI employee—an instructional coach for low-performing schools—claimed 44,065 miles driven over 174 trips last fiscal year, collecting $22,261 in mileage reimbursements. But according to the auditor's analysis, the worker had inflated the actual mileage by 6,474 miles.
The report also noted numerous inconsistencies in the employee's departure and arrival times. In one instance, the worker's mileage reports indicated he had traveled 156 miles in an hour.
The discrepancies are key, the report said, because they indicate the employee exaggerated the number of hours he spent working in schools. According to the audit, DPI officials have agreed the miles were overstated and plan to seek refunds and impose disciplinary action.
DPI spokeswoman Vanessa Jeter said the worker was meeting with a department manager Tuesday afternoon. Jeter said she did not know what punishment the employee would face.
Among the audit's additional findings, it recommended assigning state cars to DPI's top travelers, a change that would save roughly $105,600.
Drivers using personal vehicles were reimbursed at Internal Revenue Service rates, which increased from 50 cents to 51 cents midway through the last fiscal year. By comparison, operating state cars would cost 30 cents a mile, the report said.
DPI could save another $3,700 by requiring traveling instructors at low-performing schools to stay overnight rather than driving home each day, the report said.
Meanwhile, the auditor recommended DPI officials remind employees of state and department travel policies. A random sample of 60 travel invoices found 47 instances of noncompliance with those policies. Those cases included overnight travel, meals and excess lodging without prior approval, as well as mileage reports filed without the required documentation.
DPI oversees North Carolina's public school systems. The audit cost $101,855 to perform, the report said.
This article appeared in print with the headline "High mileage."