WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.-In assembling this report on NCUA board travel, Credit Union Journal found the greatest challenge to be in obtaining expense receipts.
A Freedom of Information Act request, as well as a request made directly to Board Member Michael Fryzel, produced no receipts. The agency explained that board members are not required to turn over receipts even with a FOIA request. However, requests for receipts made directly to Chairman Debbie Matz and to her office were voluntarily fulfilled.
According to Linda Dent, NCUA associate general counsel, receipts are not considered an agency record (therefore not subject to a FOIA request) and are property of the employee. She explained that only if an employee exceeds a travel expense guideline will a receipt need to be produced.
"And then the receipts need only be presented to the approving supervisor for review," said Dent. "The only way you will find a receipt in our system is if someone has been audited and they had to produce a receipt. Then that receipt becomes an agency record."
However, in travel expenses for Fryzel, Matz, and Executive Director David Marquis provided by NCUA to JunketSleuth through a FOIA request, numerous receipts were included (http://junketsleuth.com/paper_records/NCUA/).
"I assume that the NCUA officials saved the receipts to justify payment if they were ever questioned about expenses, so, in my opinion, that makes them an agency record," said Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Russell Carollo, who, while working for JunketSleuth reported on NCUA travel (Credit Union Journal, Aug. 8, 2011). "These are receipts collected while on official business of the government, not while on vacation."
NCUA's Travel Policy
NCUA Travel Policy states that employees must keep receipts for six years and three months from the date of the travel voucher expense reimbursement claim, "as required by applicable National Archives and Records Administration schedules."
Credit Union Journal asked Fryzel for receipts for the travel expenses the Journal questioned (see related story). He responded saying he did not have the receipts and to work through the agency to obtain those records. The agency responded with travel vouchers, forms that detail employee travel spending but do not include receipts.
When asked about his philosophy toward travel spending, Fryzel touched on the importance of receipts, saying, "Whatever it takes to be at that particular location, that's what it costs. That's why it's actual expenses and why the receipts are there. I submit my receipts to my administrative assistant who then prepares the travel vouchers that go through our executive director's office where they are continually checked to make sure they are legitimate and are within the limits allowed."