MLA expense disclosures don’t require two new staff

(Victoria, 30 May 2014) – The B.C. legislature should think twice before posting help wanted ads for two additional staff to prepare MLA online expense disclosures, according to IntegrityBC.

On Tuesday, in what’s been called a “hastily arranged meeting” of the legislature’s management committee, MLAs voted to stop billing taxpayers for meals for their families and instead start billing taxpayers $176,000 to hire staff to prepare MLA expense disclosure forms that will be posted online starting in September.

Unless major changes are being considered to some of the existing travel policies, IntegrityBC believes it’s difficult to justify adding two staff to process and post receipts four times a year for 85 MLAs.

In 2013-14, B.C. MLAs billed $3.54 million in travel expenses or an average of $41,650 for each MLA. A good chunk of that was for air travel and hotels which are generally billed through itemized statements and not individual receipts for each charge.

MLAs who take the $12,000 per year capital city housing allowance don’t require receipts for reimbursement at present and per diems don’t require receipts. In-constituency travel is set at a flat allowance based on one of five riding classifications and currently doesn’t require the submission of receipts.

“With the existing MLA, caucus, legislature and ministerial staff – who are doing a good chunk of the job already – posting receipts isn’t a mammoth extra task,” said IntegrityBC executive director Dermod Travis. “One expects that MLAs don’t drop off shoe boxes of receipts.”

While the management committee is expanding the quarterly public disclosure to include constituency office expense information, the bulk of those expenses will be for staff and rent. Expense reporting has also been streamlined by the introduction of a MLA travel card, as recommended by the auditor general, following his 2012 audit of legislature spending.

“With the preparatory work being done now, the management committee needs to hit pause and ask itself if the extra work really requires two more staff and a $176,000 increase in legislature spending,” said Travis. “At $30 per hour it represents 70 hours per MLA to process and post receipts.”


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For more information:

Dermod Travis, Executive Director