When you ask government employees across Canada what their biggest frustration is when it comes to traveling for work, the answer is usually the same regardless of what region they are from: dealing with travel expenses. Travel expenses can be a significant source of stress for employees and especially remote government workers like building inspectors who have to travel and bill expenses regularly. Government regulations on how travel expenses are tracked and reimbursed can be very strict and difficult for employees to follow. These problems are highlighted when governments use antiquated paper-based records management systems.
- These regulations vary by region but many require employees to:
- Receive and retain prior written approval of the expenses they will make while traveling;
- Keep a detailed inventory of their travels and purchases, including good condition original receipts for all purchases;
- Photocopy all receipts so that they have a copy for their own records as well as the original copy for the government;
- Submit receipts along with a document showing where they traveled to and from, and what distances were involved;
- Write-up documentation explaining why a receipt is unavailable if lost;
- Create a document outlining why certain purchases were made;
- File all documents and reimbursement requests within a set period of time;
- Travel to city hall, unnecessarily, simply to hand in travel expense forms.
These regulations can be burdensome to employees and problems usually surface quickly. With inefficient records management systems these problems are only intensified. Even in ideal situations – like automated processes – these regulations are difficult to manage. Unique situations can always pop up, but having a streamlined approach gives local governments a fighting chance. Common situations which can derail the expense process include:
- Unexpected travel with on-the-road dates that compromise approval time requirements;
- Receipts being lost for no reason other than misplacement;
- Non-applicable items on receipts causing reviewer/approver confusion over which items are to be reimbursed. This may happen with a case as simple as a worker wanting to buy a coffee from Tim Hortons while filling up the gas tank;
- Employees forgetting to file reimbursement forms on time;
- Forms being submitted and improperly stored and lost or forgotten about;
- The printer not working correctly and not allowing employees to create the reimbursement document;
- Reviewers being out of the office, causing employees to have to travel to the office numerous times to submit the form;
- Requests taking a long time to be approved due to the various problems outlined above.
All of the above can cause employee stress which can seriously hamper productivity and lead to efficiency losses. Consider an example case where an employee files a travel reimbursement form for $10 worth of travel. The employee has to keep the original receipt in good condition, print out and fill in the form, attach the receipt, and travel to city hall to hand it off. If the pertinent person is not there at that time they either have to wait there until the person arrives or come back the next day. Then the request reviewer has to go through everything and ensure that it is all correct and if not, contact the employee who has to come back in to fix it. The reviewer then enters the reimbursement claim and the money is released up to 2 weeks later. Accounting for the employee time it takes to do this process, it ends up costing the government a lot more than the $10 reimbursement fee! When we consider this on a larger scale, it can end up costing governments a significant amount of money. Inefficient processes such as these may even lead to higher employee turnover if employees become frustrated enough.
Fortunately, Ricoh can mitigate these issues by implementing our Laserfiche ECM solution. We are extremely knowledgeable about travel expense regulations for local governments across Canada. Our systems can incorporate these regulations, which are present in different forms in each province and territory. Our solutions greatly simplify the travel expense reimbursement process by:
- Enabling employees to scan their receipts into a secure electronic repository directly from their mobile phone as they get them;
- Allowing employees to easily mark where they are traveling to and from and automatically generating the related Google Maps file displaying the distance traveled;
- Allowing the reviewer and employee time to discuss any problems with the form through the secure online system – meaning neither of them has to come into the office to do so;
- Marking the date that each request was put in and automatically alerting the reviewer if the form has not been approved after a set period of time;
- Setting up an automated notification-based business process as below:
By implementing our system you can ensure that worries about travel expenses can become a thing of the past. No longer will employees have to play arts and crafts and staple receipts together and hope that they haven’t forgotten anything.
Ricoh has innovative solutions that can help your municipality save time and money. Visit our website.