The Smithsonian Office of the Inspector General is investigating executive compensation and accounting practices at Smithsonian Business Ventures, which controls the institution's retail and publishing businesses.

The investigation will include an audit of how the salary and bonus levels of the for-profit SBV's managers are established, and whether those payments met the agreements set by the Smithsonian Board of Regents when it established the unit in 1998.

The salaries of the more than 400 employees of SBV follow a private-sector pay scale, while the majority of Smithsonian employees are paid according to the federal civil service system. Smithsonian employees have often suggested that the SBV could be generating more income for the museums if its own staffing expenses weren't so high.

For the 2005 fiscal year, SBV implemented a new accounting system that showed museum directors how they were being charged for administrative costs, including everything from a share of the rent for a new accounting office and a percentage of the salaries of the SBV staff.

SBV is in charge of Smithsonian Magazine, other publications, gift shops, restaurants, catalogue and online sales, theaters, and Smithsonian Journeys, a travel group that at one point had almost 8,000 participants a year.

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