Withheld Report Faults Bureaucrats’ Fancy Travel

By Justin Rood

Sep 13, 2007 10:58am

Department of Commerce employees may have spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on improper first- and business-class travel, according to a report obtained by the Blotter on ABCNews.com. In a survey of several dozen premium-class trips taken by Commerce officials in 2005 and 2006, roughly two out of three were not properly authorized, the agency’s inspector general concluded. The report was completed in March and distributed to congressional offices but was not made public. The office released the report Thursday, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by ABC News. The public version of the report is unredacted, and no explanation was given for why it was withheld. Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage. Commerce officials took 630 business-class trips from October 2004 to May 2006, costing a total of $2.8 million, according to the report. Department officials also took 11 first-class trips, although the inspector general’s report does not disclose the cost of that travel. Reviewing a sample of 63 trips, auditors found only 14 were properly authorized. The others were approved by officials without authorization to do so, were improperly justified or lacked the proper paperwork, the investigators found. The report blamed "poor internal controls" and "outdated…guidance" for the problems. In its response, the department agreed with those findings and said it was taking steps to correct those issues. Ironically, the inspector general responsible for discovering the improper travel, Johnnie E. Frazier, resigned in June, facing multiple investigations into numerous allegations of abuse and mismanagement, including that he fraudulently charged the government for improper travel.  Frazier has declined to comment on the charges. Commerce Department officials are not the only government employees who have been found to have taken improper premium-class trips. The State Department did not properly authorize or justify nearly two-thirds of $140 million in premium-class travel for its officials between April 2003 and September 2004, the Government Accountability Office concluded last year. In a separate study, the GAO also found problems with nearly all of the Defense Department’s premium-class travel for 2001 and 2002, which cost taxpayers almost $124 million. Click Here to Register to Receive Blotter Alerts.

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