Audit: University of the District of Columbia lacked oversight of president's business, travel expenses
The Washington Post
April 15, 2011
The University of the District of Columbia exercised scant oversight over its president’s business and travel expenses, an internal audit has found, allowing Allen L. Sessoms to travel widely without developing a budget or seeking approvals required by his employment contract.
Sessoms, who has led the District’s public university since September 2008, has come under fire in recent weeks for traveling on university funds. WTTG (Channel 5) reported in February about several trips that generally involved first-class travel and luxury accommodations.
All told, Sessoms has taken 36 university-paid trips totaling $58,444 since becoming UDC president. One trip, to Egypt, was billed at $7,952. The auditors said that in many cases, the expenses were poorly documented.
University spokesman Alan Etter said that Sessoms, who declined to comment, would take appropriate action once the Board of Trustees completes a review of the audit, which has not been officially released.
“We are implementing systems that will make for more transparent accounting,” Etter said. “We recognize the need to spend our resources in a way that is efficient and that benefits our students.”
Under Sessoms’s contract, he is entitled to reimbursement of “reasonable business and travel expenses . . . pursuant to a budget developed on a semi-annual basis” between him and UDC board members. The expenses are to be reviewed “on at least a quarterly basis” by the board or a designee.
No budgets were developed, the audit said, and reviews of Sessoms’s expenses were spotty.
In January 2010, the board’s chairman, Joseph L. Askew Jr., asked a Sessoms aide to prepare a budget for approval. She refused, auditors said, replying to Askew in an e-mail that “it is impossible to know where he is going in the next 11 months.” She added that she would forward authorization forms to the board “because I am required to do so, and it informs you of the time he will be in or out of the city.”
The aide, the audit concluded, “obstructed the Board from receiving the information that was contractually agreed upon.”