Members of the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners spent more taxpayer money than legally allowed on hotels and meals last year, according to a new audit from the state’s Legislative Auditor.
Board members must license, regulate, and discipline physicians and allied health professionals throughout Louisiana, when state law requires.
But, as the audit went to say, board members could not follow the very guidelines state officials impose on them. Specifically, LSBME board members could not keep their spending in line with the Louisiana Travel Guide (PPM 49) and the state’s Controlled Billed Account (CBA) policy.
Out-of-town board members, advisory committee members, and a contracted employee used state money at New Orleans hotels last year, according to the audit.
“Thirty-eight of the 64 hotel room charges exceeded the allowable rates by $1,975, in total, without the required justification. PPM 49 establishes maximum rates for hotel rooms,” auditors wrote.
“When the allowable hotel room rates must be exceeded, PPM 49 requires justification to be maintained evidencing that attempts were made with other hotels in the area for the best rate. The Board’s preference is to use the same two hotels for consistency and convenience based on these hotels’ proximity to the Board’s office.”
LSBME members also charged more than $521 on meals in excess of established guidelines, according to auditors.
“When the Board’s preferred hotels’ rates are not within the allowable rates set by PPM 49, the Board should search other hotels for the best available rate in the area,” auditors wrote.
New Orleans-based hotels charged the state $13,754 to accommodate LSBME members last year, according to the audit.
In a written response attached to the audit, LSBME Director of Operations Denise Businelle said hotel officials issued credits when they charged above state rates.
“These credits were issued one to two months after the initial charges,” Businelle wrote.
“The CBA countholders will continue to review hotel charges and work with the hotels to assure the Board is not exceeding the rates allowed in PPM49.”
According to the LSBME’s website, the Board is composed of 10 voting members — or nine physicians and one consumer member. The governor of Louisiana appoints board members for four-year terms, subject to State Senate confirmation.
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