Don’t try this at work

Wouldn’t it be nice to look at our national political leadership and embrace them all as useful role models in life for their ethical and principled behaviour, good values and respect for the planet.

The recent revelations about Federal politicians and their travel and expenses have to be a new low.  There’s not much to admire in a group of people regarding travel expenses as an unregulated bucket of cash from which the most dubious of claims can be met, no questions asked, and if you’ve “misunderstood” the blatantly clear guidelines, instead of being charged with fraud, you can pay it back.

Attending weddings, flying from Perth to inspect your investment property in Cairns, extravagant bookshelves and, in the Prime Minister’s case, a string of social and sporting events all allowed inappropriate claims to be made and paid. Strenuous denials of having done anything wrong but then monies paid back as if that means that the claimant didn’t do the wrong thing in the first place. Absolution for past sins, as the PM might put it, but instead he would rather describe it as confusion or imprecision in the guidelines.

If you are going to pick up some aspect of a politician’s behaviour and use it at work, don’t use this example. If you fiddle your travel expenses or claim reimbursement of expenses that don’t come with a bull’s roar of being business-related, a Council won’t let you claim ignorance or confusion and they won’t accept that offering to pay it back, clears the slate.

From 2005 to 2010, 56 politicians found themselves having to pay back 136 expenses wrongly claimed.

They get away with it because we don’t expect much of them but your employer expects much more of you. That’s not really how it should be, when you think of it, because if it Federal Parliament is full of dodgy politicians fiddling their expenses, that is pretty dispiriting.

And even the PM, fresh from his successful election campaign about restoring trust in government was a major offender. He repaid $9397.42 while promoting his book Battlelines and has steadfastly denied wrongly claiming the expenses, even though he repaid them. Sprung by the ABC TV program The Drum in 2010 Mr Abbott denied any wrongdoing and any wrongful claiming of travel expenses but when the finance department found the expense claim was “incorrect”, the money was repaid.

“What, me worry?” won’t work if you get sprung doing this at work. Don’t do it, if the guidelines are unclear, get it cleared beforehand. 

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