Selected Aspects of Discretionary Spending

Issued Date
September 30, 2014
Central New York Regional Transportation Authority


To determine whether the Central New York Regional Transportation Authority’s discretionary spending complied with its guidelines and was reasonable, adequately supported, and properly approved. Our audit period was April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2012.


The Central New York Regional Transportation Authority (Authority) was created in 1970 to develop and improve the public transportation systems in the central region of New York State, including Onondaga, Oswego, Cayuga, and Oneida counties. Its mission is to provide “safe, convenient, reliable, and environmentally responsible” transportation services while maximizing the return on investment for the taxpayers. To accomplish its mission, the Authority incurs direct costs for specific program purposes, and it incurs indirect or “discretionary costs” that support overall objectives.

The audit identified a total of $4.3 million of Authority spending that was discretionary in nature. Each public authority should have formal policies and procedures specifying which types of discretionary spending are appropriate and the dollar thresholds for each. In addition, the policies should state what type of supporting documentation and formal approvals are necessary for such costs.

Key Findings

  • The Authority did not have formal policies that explicitly outlined whether certain types of discretionary expenses were proper, what would be considered reasonable amounts for such expenditures, and what documentation would be required to demonstrate that employees used due diligence to obtain the lowest reasonable cost.
  • We questioned the propriety of certain discretionary expenditures totaling about $31,247. Among the items, questionable expenses included the costs for special events, memberships, and subscriptions.
  • Although the nature of certain other discretionary expenditures appeared reasonable, we questioned whether the Authority paid the lowest reasonable costs to obtain the benefits intended from such expenditures.

Key Recommendation

Examine written policies and procedures to determine if they adequately address the various forms of questionable discretionary spending, including definitions of costs and necessary justifications, dollar thresholds, formal approvals, and required supporting documentation.

Other Related Audits/Reports of Interest

Battery Park City Authority: Selected Aspects of Discretionary Spending (2012-S-158)
State University Construction Fund: Selected Aspects of Discretionary Spending (2013-S-14)

Carmen Maldonado

State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Carmen Maldonado
Phone: (212) 417-5200; Email: [email protected]
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236