- Our Town
Columbia Shuswap Regional District adopts revamped expense policy
Thirty-three years after it was first legislated, directors of the Columbia Shuswap Regional District voted unanimously to approve a new policy governing their conduct surrounding personal expenses for staff and elected officials.
Finance manager Jodi Kooistra sought amendments on the policy that affects both staff and directors because there were no guidelines that set limits on meal expenditures, room upgrades or partner programs. As well, there was a lack of consistency in how expense claims were processed.
Previous discussions regarding the new policy generated questions and comments regarding directors’ responsibility in choosing the cheapest mode of transportation, hotels and meals. Kooistra reiterated the policy declares directors and staff are expected to “utilize the most cost-effective method of travel considering time, convenience and safety.”
Kooistra made clear that meal expenses for business outside of CSRD limits are on a strictly per diem basis. Within CSRD limits, detailed receipts are required to prevent fraudulent use of the per diem.
Rural area directors initially balked at approving the policy, sending it back to the Electoral Area Directors (EAD) committee meeting for further discussion. Following this, a few minor changes were made to the policy including setting a two-tiered per diem rate for meals, as it was felt that costs were higher in the Greater Vancouver, Victoria and Whistler areas.
Area C director Paul Demenok proposed an amendment that would make using government hotel rates mandatory, but this was discouraged by staff, who noted this was not always the most economical option. For example, a using the hotel closest to a conference could be the cheaper option than getting a government rate farther away and paying for mileage.
“There is a trust factor here, and I think we are all very aware of the trust placed in us for the items we are claiming,” said board chair David Raven. “I think staff have been very prudent.”
The policy also now includes a provision that it be reviewed every four years.
“I’m glad to see the time schedule, so it won’t be 33 years before it is renewed again,” commented Salmon Arm Mayor Nancy Cooper.