The audit of travel and conference claims is required by law and is an essential internal control for ensuring that travel policy requirements are consistently met by all employees. The claims auditing process involves reviewing information contained in the claim/voucher packet, including appropriate approvals, travel forms, receipts and other documentation to ensure that the claim represents a lawful charge against the local government or school district. The auditing body or official9 should be looking for completeness, accuracy and original documentation. The specific questions the auditor should ask may differ slightly between different types of local governments and school districts. However, the general questions described below should be included in every examination of travel claims.10
- Was the travel approved? There should be a copy of the approval form or some indication that travel was properly approved.
- Is the travel or mileage reimbursement form attached, completed and signed by the traveler?
- Is the math correct on the travel form?
- Is there sales tax included in hotel charges?
- Is there conference or training information, if applicable, that includes dates, times and location?
- Do the conference or training dates correspond to the travel dates and expenses incurred by the traveler?
- Is there proof that the traveler attended the conference, training or meeting (i.e., certification of attendance and/ or completion, documentation of the meeting purpose and attendees, etc.)?
- Are original receipts attached for all expenses that are being sought for reimbursement? (Original receipts should be attached for all charges, including those to your credit cards.)
- Is the claim sufficiently itemized?
- Do the expenses incurred exceed the general maximum lodging and meal rates set in the travel and conference policy?
Employees who travel must be aware of travel and conference policy requirements and they must understand the consequences of the failure to meet these requirements.
- Are expenses incurred necessary in connection with the attendance at the conference?
- Are there charges for non-reimbursable expenses such as alcohol, concerts, shows, sporting events, in-room movies, etc.?
- Are there expenses the traveler incurred while extending a trip, or taking a side trip, for personal reasons? Did the extension of travel add additional costs? For example, did other employees pay $200 for airfare but one employee pay $400 because he or she returned on a later flight due to an extension of the trip for personal reasons?
- Are there expenses related to spouses or other non-employee travelers?
- Have reimbursements requested by the traveler already been charged to the local government or school district’s credit card?
- If mileage reimbursement is sought, is the mileage reasonable taking into consideration the departure and arrival points? (Internet mapping tools can be useful for determining the reasonableness of mileage claims.)
- Does everything make sense and are charges reasonable and in accordance with your travel and conference policy?
9 In most cases, the governing board is responsible for auditing all claims, unless the local government or school has a separate auditing officer, such as a town comptroller or school claims auditor.
10 Keep in mind that, in some instances, reimbursements for conference expenses may be governed by collective bargaining agreements or individual employment contracts (e.g., school district superintendents). In these cases, you should follow your travel and conference policy unless there are differences specifically stated in the collective bargaining agreement or employment contract.