Friday, December 11, 2009

A modest suggestion on the MPS expenses nonsenses 

Tearing-haired frustration at yet another round of MPs expenses nonsense. One part of this is the utterly incompetent accounting practices so glaringly exposed, especially when it comes to claiming ‘part of a set of receipts’.

Here is what I do for the accounts of an annual families summer camp organised by Quakers. I get a lot of claims for various reimbursements of legitimate common costs incurred by participants. If some item on the receipt is not part of the claim the whole thing goes on the spreadsheet like this:

Items to be reclaimed, if necessary itemised by nominal category.
Total of items on this receipt NOT to be reclaimed.
Total of all items under category A to be added to reclaim schedule
Total of A plus B, which should exactly equal the amount shown on the crude receipt.

And I file these away so that if I get a charities-commission audit check I can prove what is what. And that payments have not been made for dubious items. And that despite being 'on a receipt' a claim has not in fact been made for a non-allowable item. Even Quakers can make mistakes.

I then refund the amount under category C.

I have looked at some of the MPs expenses claims forms online and I could not keep track of and control my camp expenses if I had to work on the so-called system exposed there, either as a claimant or a cost controller. It is a farce. I have looked at the claims online for my local (non-LibDem) MP and he or his staff have shown avoidable chaotic errors basically I believe because there is no proper accounting system in force.

Here is a modest suggestion for our party. Produce a set of standard accounting software tools for MPs to handle expenses. Build in some basic accounting double checks. Require all our MPs (and Peers) to produce and file in their core accounts monthly schedules of expenses generated by this software to back up any Parliamentary Fees Office claims. Nobody to make expenses claims unless they can produce such further systematic documentation.

Then insist that the fees office and require all MPs and so on of all parties work to the same standard. But put our own house in elementary good shape first.

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