Tuesday, November 09, 2010
The Philadelphia Inquirer was undoubtedly pleased to run this story on its front page today:
Gov. Christie, while serving as U.S. attorney, billed taxpayers for luxury hotels on trips and routinely failed to follow federal travel regulations, according to a report released Monday.If you have the patience to read the story all the way through, you will find in the 12th graf that the aggregate amount by which Christie's hotel expenses exceeded the government allowance during his tenure was $2,176. There were some other questions raised regarding transportation expenses, amounting to smaller figure.
The report, released by the U.S. Department of Justice's inspector general, found that while many U.S. attorneys and their subordinates approved their own travel and expenses, the vast majority complied with the approved government lodging rate.
However, the investigation found, "a small number of U.S. attorneys routinely exceeded the government rate, by large amounts, with insufficient, inaccurate, or no justification."
Undoubtedly, the story is generating chuckles in the teachers' lounges throughout New Jersey, and the story does slightly undercut the moral high ground of someone who is doing his best to significantly reduce expenditures at the state level. Christie can probably make this story go away forever by agreeing to cut a check for a few thousand bucks, and stating that in retrospect, he should have tried harder to stay within the allowances, and to the extent he did not, he feels now that he should go out of pocket. I am not sure whether that is the right or wrong approach, but the symbolism and the mild mea culpa might be powerful.
But the question remains -- a front page story in a major daily newspaper over a few thousand dollars of expense overages?
Never had to deal with the government per diem myself, so I could be very wrong, but I understood that there was a max amount the government would pay depending upon the specific locale and anything in excess was the individual's responsibility. So I'd think that Christie has already paid the excess amounts.
The rules are not uniform across departments. But in industry and in most government agencies the guidelines are not limits, they are control procedures.
Amounts under the guidelines are routinely paid. Those higher will require a supervisor to approve payment or reject it.
Each higher level of management has greater authority to pay overages.
Nearly always overages end up being paid. Flagrant violations may lead to disciplinary measures.
I did a lot of travel on government per diem earlier in my career. Several examples cited in the Inky would suggest that Christie was a little careless with the limits. The hired cars in particular do sound a little too pricey.
But $2,000 in overages over two years, when the guy was probably doing a lot of job-related travel (including to London, the story says)? Completely absurd as a front page story.
I have dealt with Government per diam, which is normally only one step up from having to stun pigeons with your travel iron for lunch. Two grand over a two year period is airline peanuts. For a quick and dirty, compare it to his total expenditures for travel for that period.
"normally only one step up ...
If you read it closely most of the overages were just for one "trial" suggesting there was a reason for using a one-off hotel. The car service overage sounds like he needed a car on call to make a planeor some such.
Sheeeet! Is that all they got.
Those of you wishing an in-depth look at Federal Travel Regulations (or insomnia relief) can find it at the General Services Administration , which should include the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) for the years in question.
I would be willing to bet that coming within the listed possible discrepency of the Approved amount of travel per diam indicates a solid grasp the rules and regulations involved.