FVRD pledges to tighten expense rules

Two FVRD directors have been subjected to an audit after they claimed a total of $42,578 for 2011 travel expenses, without receipts.

FVRD Area B director Dennis Adamson.

Fraser Valley Regional District director Dennis Adamson still has an unsupported balance of expense claims after a months-long specific audit. Director Wendy Bales, also subjected to an individual audit, substantiated most of her expenses and has no balance remaining.

The FVRD launched an audit of 2011 and 2012 travel expense claims for both directors after it was revealed in February that there were no supporting documents for their combined travel expenses of $42,578 for 2011.

Adamson’s expense claims of $28,545.63 in 2011 were double the next highest director’s. By the end of 2012, Adamson still had not provided any supporting documents for these costs, which had already been paid out by FVRD staff.

“We weren’t told to keep receipts,” Adamson told The Progress in February.

Director Wendy Bales also failed to provide receipts in that timeframe for $14,032.46 of travel expenses for 2011.

This prompted FVRD board chair Sharon Gaetz to call for a full review of the travel expenses of both directors for 2011 and 2012.

The KPMG auditors combed through Adamson’s calendar to find events he attended in order to justify spending on meals, mileage, and hotels. Auditors found that Adamson travelled much more than 400 km per month, the maximum discretionary amount allowed.

Adamson was able to provide few or no receipts during the audit.

After the review, Adamson still had $6,453 unsupported for 2011 and $5,092 for 2012. FVRD forgave $5,000 from both years in recognition of a near-forgotten policy that allows any Area B director to claim the additional amount for travel expenses. One of the largest electoral areas, Area B includes residents from Sunshine Valley up to Spuzzum.

The final balance of unsupported expenses for Adamson is $1,453 for 2011 and $92 for 2012. Because all claims have been already paid out during those same years, FVRD is figuring out what to do about the final balance.

At Tuesday’s FVRD board meeting, Adamson argued that much more travel is required in Area B than in any other area, and that existing travel allowance limits are too low.

“In those years when expenses were high, a lot got accomplished in the area. It was a phenomenal busy year…Value for the dollar has to be considered,” he said.

Director Bales also had her 2011 and 2012 travel claims raked through. Unlike her colleague, Bales was able to provide receipts and other supporting documents for most expenses. FVRD justified the leftover unsupported $1,503 in 2011 and $507 in 2012 as reasonable telecommunications, meals and mileage costs that were consistent with previous years. Bales has no final unsupported balance.

The detailed review cost FVRD $6,100. Chief Administrative Officer Paul Gipps, who inherited the issue when he joined the regional district in April, was adamant that such a high amount of unsupported expenses is not likely to happen again.

“The likelihood of this happening again, near impossible. That’s our commitment. We have to look at how we got here, why we got here, and figure out how that can’t happen again,” said Gipps.

The regional district is introducing electronic tracking sheets for expenses, and defining much more clearly what discretionary spending entails, such as which events are and are not sanctioned.

“In interpreting the review it was clear that the majority of challenges around expense claims are managing the discretionary mileage allowance and associated costs and providing details related to the purpose of the meeting and who attended,” noted Gipps in a staff report.

akonevski@theprogress.com
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