Nieuws - 15 september 2011

Receipts nightmare

The idea was that the new expenses claims system for foreign trips - MobileXpense - would make life easier for WUR employees. But the grumbles about all the paperwork and technical problems have become deafening. What do we think of MXP?

Rien Bor, student recruitment
‘Claiming travel expenses used to be easy. You could claim the costs of your flight and hotel room, and then you got a fixed daily allowance to cover breakfast, lunch, dinner and all other expenditure. That was simple, not susceptible to fraud and avoided palaver with receipts. I spend 80 days a year travelling outside Europe and the daily allowance is a pretty good approximation.
Now you need receipts to claim expenses. I visit countries where they never give you a receipt. I often get out of a taxi to find people tugging on my luggage while I'm still trying to get a receipt. I have rarely seen such a stupid system. They tried to introduce this system ten years ago but after six months they reverted back to the old system. I don't expect it to last much longer this time either.'

H. J., Alterra researcher
‘If you go out with a group for a meal or drinks you have to be prepared for the embarrassment of asking the waiter to make out separate bills. In Algeria we ‘only' had to get three bills every time: one for someone from Alterra, one for another person from Alterra and one for the rest of the group.'

Laurens Ganzeveld, Earth System Science lecturer
‘The principle of the system is wrong. It assumes the employees cannot be trusted. Why else would you demand receipts? Whereas I think there is very little fraud. It's a pity because now you are creating an atmosphere in which employees will also start behaving in a more calculating manner. Lots of researchers work regularly in the weekends without claiming overtime. Perhaps they should be a bit stricter in claiming? And then there's the extra time spent on the administration. I thought such administrative systems were supposed to make life easier.'

Tineke Tromp, Corporate HR
‘Staff were always supposed to claim expenses on the basis of receipts, with the Daily Subsistence Allowance as a maximum, but in practice the DSA was sometimes being paid as a fixed amount. That has changed with the new system. Not only does it implement schemes that were agreed with the unions, it also means we comply with tax rules. The tax authorities see a travel allowance without evidence of the actual costs as a form of income, on which tax is liable. So you can't avoid a system for recording receipts. But if you are missing the odd receipt you'll undoubtedly be able to agree something with your line manager.'

Wim Andriesse, external collaboration coordinator
‘I haven't really had any problems. Although I have had a moan about having to keep an eye on my receipts. That is not always so easy, for example if you have a dinner where you share the bill with colleagues. There is a big chance then that you will end up paying some of the organization's expenses yourself. I preferred the 'old' scheme where you were eligible for a certain daily allowance: less paperwork. But they take a flexible attitude to missing receipts in my section (WI) so I haven't had any problems in practice over the past six months.'

Rien Bor, student recruitment
'Entering your journey in My Travel takes forever. There are countless irrelevant standard questions. Then various people have to give their electronic approval. Naturally they happen to be ‘out of office'. Then you have to enter it again in EBS and get approval, and then it doesn't allow for any preferences. The systems don't work, can't be accessed from outside the University and are regularly out of order. There are lots of errors too with bookings. I have already been at Schiphol airport and found there wasn't a ticket for me. Turned out it hadn't been entered properly in EBS. It would be going too far to report here all the misery of the past year.'

H. J., Alterra researcher
'If you are going to enter your expenses in MobileXpense, you should definitely only do so at the office (during office hours?). I have tried doing it at home (broadband connection) outside working hours but eventually the program inevitably grinds to a halt ("error on page", "please wait... The data is being processed", etc.) and you have to start all over again. Although I will admit that I haven't tested MobileXpense in Timbuktu so perhaps it does work there.'

Thera Leenhouwers, Facility Services manager
'The assignment was to implement a single digital system for the entire organization for travel expenses claims. We did this through a European tender. Complaints? We have had a few reports; we look at them and see if we can find a solution. Often it's problems associated with making the transition: ignorance and yes, a fear of bookkeeping. Incidentally, we also get compliments - "this is really handy", for example.'

Erik Meesters, Imares marine researcher
'It often costs me half a day or a whole day to collect up all my receipts. If they are even legible. In particular receipts from less westernized countries are sometimes illegible because the ink has faded in the sunlight. It is also quite likely that you won't have all the receipts. It is always the employee who ends up paying then. However, I have a solution: a credit card where the user has to say that the costs paid for using that credit card in a particular period belong to a particular project.'

H. J., Alterra researcher
'You also need to keep a good look out for the many zeros after the decimal point with countries like that because of course the system doesn't save the most recent currency entered or exchange rate. So you have to re-enter that every time. No trouble of course.'

Rien Bor, student recruitment
'The entire travel and expenses claims system shows contempt for employees and has become an enormous bureaucratic system eating up time and energy and encouraging fraud.'