Ministers’ expense claims to undergo ‘more rigorous’ review

Ministers’ expense claims to undergo ‘more rigorous’ review
Minister David Ramsay was forced to pay back $192.97 in ineligible expense claims.Photo courtesy of the GNWT

Ministerial travel expense claims will be put through a “more rigorous” review after an investigation by the NWT’s Comptroller General found several claims filed by Industry Minister David Ramsay were ineligible.

Ramsay was forced to reimburse $192.97 for per diems and incidentals related to a stay in Montebello, Quebec last February following a review conducted last week that stemmed from an investigation by News/North.

The ineligible claims included the rental of a luxury Audi A4 sedan, claims for a taxi while using the rental car – against territorial rules – and two ineligible per diems.

But Comptroller General Bill Merklinger determined that the remainder of the minister’s expenses red flagged by the media – including a two-night stay at luxury hotel Fairmont le Chateau Montebello costing $757.77 – were eligible for compensation.

According to Merklinger, travel policy allows for reimbursement of hotel costs if it was not cost effective to return home between work meetings.

That said, the department of Finance has agreed to increase its vigilance in light of the recent administrative oversights to ensure any ineligible claims are removed prior to final processing and reimbursement.

“The prior approach to reviewing travel claims was to have a Financial Shared Services (FSS) clerk review and process a travel claim by a minister. The more rigorous review now in place as of August 14, 2015 is a second level quality assurance review of ministerial travel claims by an FSS manager,” explained Andrew Livingstone, senior cabinet communications advisor for the Office of the Premier and Cabinet. “Our expectation is that this second quality assurance review, after the first review by the clerk, will mitigate administrative errors.”

Ministers submitting ineligible claims will now be sent a “constructive explanatory note” outlining the reasons for rejection, as well.

Ministerial travel reports and expenses will continue to be made public on the GNWT’s Executive website at http://www.executive.gov.nt.ca/publications/#ministerialTR

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