ARICHAT: Despite efforts to increase financial transparency, there remains some disagreement around the council table.
During the September 25 meeting of Richmond Municipal Council in Arichat, councillors unanimously voted to post on-line, retroactive to January 1, 2017: the final report of the organizational review; VISA statements; the municipal budget; and monthly cheque lists.
But when it came time to amend the municipal Travel Expense Policy, there was debate.
Councillors agreed with reimbursing only the most inexpensive options (airfare, parking, travel) for out-of-province travel and setting mileage at the provincial rate, but the decision to allow for reimbursement up to 90 days after a returning from a trip had its detractors.
District 1 councillor James Goyetche questioned why that was not set within a shorter period of time.
“It’s more accountable when checking expenses to go to 30 days,” he said. “It’s easier to validate if expenses are legitimate at 30 days.”
“When you change a policy, I think it should be for the efficient operation of government.”
Goyetche said it’s unfair to expect staff to follow a policy the councillors do not.
“No use to make a policy if we’re not going to follow it,” he said. “We should be leading by example.”
Interim Chief Administrative Officer Louis Digout responded that during times like the summer, when staff are on vacation, it takes longer to process claims.
Warden Brian Marchand said it recently came to light that an employee’s expense claim was not processed within the 30-day period, but he said the validity of expenses is the important issue.
“Time shouldn’t matter, if it’s 30-60-90-120 [days], what’s important is that people are putting in proper claims, i.e. claiming for trips that were actually made and not what has happened over the years; trips that didn’t happen were being claimed,” the warden said.
Marchand noted that the criteria for reimbursement is not more strict, but is being watched more closely.
Alvin Martell, district 2 councillor, and district 4 councillor Gilbert Boucher were both under the impression that council already agreed on a 60-day period.
Council then approved the amended motion: “to be eligible for payment, travel expense forms must be presented for approval no more than 60 days after return.”