It is not just private companies that need effective travel and expense management, as a string of recent travel expense cases, rocking Australian government ranks, shows. Several Australian politicians have been forced to resign, the most recent being Education Minister Sussan Ley, for expensing travel that was made for personal purposes.
Charging Party Time
Unjustified travel expenses were claimed by several politicians. In Sussan Ley’s case it was travel she made in order to purchase an apartment, as well as travel to attend private New Year’s Eve parties. MP Julie Bishop had expensed $2,700 to pay for attending a polo event that had nothing to do with official business. Another incident involved two ministers and a senator expensing a trip to attend an AFL final.
Going The Expensive Route
The Sussan Ley case became an issue because she had chartered planes for the trips, at a far greater cost than a regular commercial flight. Had she booked a regular flight for the trips, the offense would most likely have slipped right by the travel and expense management team. In several of the cases, law makers claimed that what appeared to be personal travel, like family holidays, could be expensed because the trips included some sort of official business.
A Two-Fold Problem
This points to a two-fold problem in the travel and expense management of the Australian government. One problem is that catching fraudulent claims appears to take too long and be somewhat hit or miss, and the other is that the rules need some fine-tuning. Of course, without effective detection and enforcement, better rules and policies won’t do much good.
Oversight Must Be Swift
Swift and effective oversight and correction is key to good travel and expense management. To achieve that, you, the expense manager, need a firm and clear policy and the tools to check expenses quickly. In the Sussan Ley case, some of the offenses were committed years before being deemed problematic. When a problem like that is left to fester, it sends the message that people can get away with filing fraudulent expenses and ends up costing the organisation far more.
Time For An Overhaul
So it would appear that a major overhaul of the Australian government’s travel and expense management is in order. Apart from an update to policy, this should probably include investment in new software solutions to make enforcement more effective as well. As the saying goes, enforcement is 9/10ths of the law, or the policy in this case.