I may have made mention of my experience with red tape with and within the public service. My views on how public accountability and political leadership make for a not so lean and efficient machine also linger somewhere in the archives.
I’ve watched newcomers to “public employment” trundle wide-eyed into the peat bog of formality only to be slowly and cruelly engulfed. I’ve also seen government vacancies hang open for months because wage structures fail to come close to professional salary levels.
The Australian has chalked up another story
of public administrative extravagance. A Civil Aviation Safety Authority internal review found that the unaccountable $90-a-day travel allowance for food and incidentals was often drawn down on corporate credit cards as cash weeks before the actual travel.
Staff at the air safety regulator have wasted at least $150,000 a year booking their own travel, and have spent more on food and drink when away than on accommodation.
This led to the conclusion that CASA officials were using the allowance, which did not have to be justified by receipts, to top up their salaries.
“Conclusion”? May I suggest “Assumption” is a better word. While the TA for CASA might be more generous than some, I can attest that blowing the dosh before arriving at the destination isn’t necessarily a major scam.
Any regular traveller will confirm how quick the shine wears off spending hours waiting in airports, crammed in economy seating and solitary dining on deep fried schnitzels before retiring to a lonely room and crummy tv. Meanwhile untended domestic responsibilities and neglected spousal relations await your delayed return.
I’ve blown TA on items such as magazines, comfortable trousers, food and drink well before leaving town. Not every destination lends itself to the conveniences and comforts of home.
Still, if you think you’re being ripped off by Joe Public Servant, then support the calls for more controls. It already takes hours to chase down the necessary signatures for approval to travel and with the support of administrative staff about another half a day to process the TA expenditure before and after the trip. Chasing a receipt for a pie, finger bun and a can of coke bothers me for a couple of reasons.
While I’m used to spending my time doing tasks menial, it’s a drag chasing receipts from Harry Shopkeeper and collating the tickertape at the end of a long journey is going to end in tears.
Secondly, public servants pay tax too. Hard to believe I know, but I’ve seen the group certificates. (In fact most public service jobs are so mundane they allow little opportunity for even the most creative of accountants to justify a viable claim and therefore tend to have incomes that have less propensity to escape tax unlike some other career groups).
The hidden cost of authorising, processing and recording the simplest $5.45 luncheon is evident when you’re paid by the hour to search for the hidden claim form on the intranet, interpret the latest travel policy and chase executive for authorisation before sucking up to the finance section to rush through your cheque so you can get to the bank on time to cash it before closing. It can take half a day to get $50 of TA for a night away.
Bring it on.