Report show noncompliance with travel rules

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 30, 2014 at 3:50 pm •  Published: July 30, 2014

DOVER, Del. (AP) — Regular noncompliance by top state officials suggests that changes are needed in rules governing out-of-state travel and the use of state credit cards, Delaware's Republican state auditor said in a report released Wednesday that Democratic Gov. Jack Markell's office suggests was politically motivated.

Auditor Tom Wagner's office began examining travel and procurement-card use following the resignation last year of former deputy state treasurer Erika Benner, who reimbursed the state about $6,400 for personal charges on her state credit card.

Auditors examined expenses and reimbursements for the governor, state treasurer, deputy treasurer, transportation secretary, insurance commissioner and state economic development director over two years. They then compared those records to state budget and accounting manual rules.

"In general, we found consistent noncompliance with exhaustive and bureaucratic instructions," the report stated, describing rules regarding travel and credit card use as "confusing and a moving target." Selective enforcement of the out-of-state travel authorization form for elected and appointed officials was the most concerning noncompliance issue, according to Wednesday's report.

Markell spokeswoman Kelly Bachman criticized the report — which takes issue with airline seating upgrades for Markell, his $128.50 purchase of saltwater taffy for National Guard troops in Afghanistan, certain meal and lodging expenses, and expenditures by his transportation secretary.

"Given the timing of this inspection, the extensive review of issues like taffy, and the selective focus on the governor" and the transportation department, "it is not hard to imagine that this review may have been motivated more by politics than by a good-faith desire to improve state travel policies," Bachman said in an email.

Wagner noted that, strictly speaking, some expenditures made by the governor's office aren't allowed under existing policies.

"Under the current guidelines, he has to follow the same policy as everybody else does," said Wagner, adding that the rules should allow more flexibility.

State treasurer Chip Flowers agreed that the rules can be confusing and need to be changed.

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