Regents should seek receipts

Staff Editorials,
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August 6, 2014 | 6:55 am

The Iowa Board of Regents has been assured that none of the $220,000 its efficiencies consultant billed for travel, lodging and food was spent on first class airfare or alcoholic beverages. Deloitte Consulting’s charges appear reasonable, officials say.

But the odd thing is, the Board of Regents’ contract with Deloitte doesn’t require the company to submit any actual receipts for its expenses. The firm simply submits a list of its costs for reimbursement. All the board really has to go on are assurances and appearances.

If you’re an employee of one of the state’s three universities governed by the Board of Regents, that wouldn’t fly. At the University of Iowa, for instance, employees seeking reimbursement are expected to provide copies of receipts for any expense over $75.

But the Board of Regents felt that such a requirement for Deloitte, which is expected to charge the universities more than $3 million for its efficiencies hunt, wasn’t necessary.

“We did not request specifics — that is not typical for when they call for out-of-pocket expenses,” Patrice Sayre, chief business officer for the Board of Regents, told The Gazette’s Vanessa Miller. “Think about the enormity of that. They have quite a large team traveling to four different sites. That detail would be very difficult to verify.”

We think a company capable of managing a large team and finding tens of millions of dollars in potential budget savings can handle providing receipts as a safeguard against the potential misuse of public funds. The same safeguards that apply to university employees should apply to consultants working for the universities.

Think also of the enormity of the potential embarrassment if, while seeking efficiencies, Deloitte spent our money lavishly.

And, so far, the expenditures are significant. Deloitte, according to emails, sought reimbursement for more than $99,000 in expenses over roughly a three-week period in March and April and another $120,000 in late April and May.

That doesn’t necessariyl mean anything is amiss. But without receipts, proof is lacking. We agree with Regent Bob Downer, who would like to see receipts.

We think the Board of Regents should seek to amend its contract and require Deloitte to provide more information about its expenses, including receipts. And those records should be readily available for public scrutiny.

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