An audit from Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office released Tuesday found the Department of Transportation wrongly paid nearly $321,000 for travel expenses to eight workers at the Tappan Zee Bridge.

The money was spent despite an internal DOT audit that identified the money as inappropriate, the DiNapoli report found.

“DOT needs to make sure its managers are aware of state travel rules and enforce them,” DiNapoli said. “After an internal audit identified the improper payments, DOT continued to make them, even with multiple opportunities to remedy the situation. DOT needs to do a better job protecting taxpayer dollars and ensuring its employees are not paid for routine commuting costs.”

The improper travel reimbursement may have led to the DOT failing to report about $227,000 in travel expenses to the correct taxing authorities between 2009 and 2011, DiNapoli found.

Guidance from the IRS says employee travel expenses are taxable.

The comptroller’s office found $101,706 was spent on personal car mileage, tolls and other expenses from June 2010 through September 2011. Overall, the DOT reimbursed Tappan Zee Bridge workers $320,756 for commuting expenses over a four-year period.

12s93 by Nick Reisman