Expense policy upgrade considered
Morning Star Staff
Directors pushed pause on an attempt by Columbia-Shuswap Regional District staff to introduce policies on expense accountability and giving grants prior to elections.
Jodi Kooistra, manager of financial services, brought forward a policy to amend travel and expense reimbursement for staff and directors and a second that would prevent directors from giving grants in aid in the three months prior to a municipal election.
Kooistra told directors that the travel and expense policy was adopted in 1981 and has not been amended since.
“There are currently no guidelines that set limits on meal expenditures, room upgrades or partner programs,” she said. “We have been paying out previously on the basis of submitted receipts, but there was a lack of consistency in how we process expense claims within the organization.”
Kooistra explained that some submitted receipts have shown total amounts, but no itemized details of the expense.
“Policy F-14 provides guidelines for consistency and accountability when travelling on regional district business, representing the regional district or attending conferences, seminars and other training opportunities,” wrote Kooistra in her report.
“It is essential to have a clear and concise policy supported by sound procedures that clearly define the authority to attend, the permitted expenses, the payment limits and the reporting requirements.”
CSRD chairperson David Raven supported the report.
“Over the past several years, it has become apparent that the regional district needs to clarify and revisit their policies around expenses and grants in aid to ensure they’re consistent, fair and transparent,” he said.
“In the case of the expense claims, the issues in the Senate and other levels of government provide a lesson that our expense claims must be reasonable and administered within defined policies.”
While they didn’t say they opposed the policies, electoral area directors did not have an appetite to endorse the amendments.
Falkland director Rene Talbot and North Shuswap director Larry Morgan asked that the policy be deferred, with Morgan saying it affects electoral area directors and needs examination and “sorting out” before getting approval.
Despite Golden director Christina Benty’s observation that the policy is “pretty standard” for other municipalities and organizations, South Shuswap director Paul Demenok supported Talbot and Morgan’s suggestion to defer the policy to the electoral area directors meeting.
“We shouldn’t have let this sit around so much since 1981 but I support bringing it up at the EAD meeting for a robust discussion,” said Demenok.
This did not sit well with chief administrative officer Charles Hamilton.
“While I respect it may impact electoral area directors more, we did a lot of work on this and the problem is, we saw some serious issues with our current policy,” he said.
“By deferring this, is the flawed policy going to be in place until a new policy is adopted, or is it going to fall on the chair and administrator to decide what will and will not be approved?”
Talbot called the expense policy too vague on a number of points and wanted to make sure the regional district policy is in line with other districts and municipalities.
“What they brought to the board was, ‘this is what we want to do,’ with nothing to show comparisons,” he said.
“I agree that we have to be accountable, but let’s make sure we are in line with others.”