Years ago I initiated a National Technology Project to look at how schools across Canada were integrating instructional technology into the teaching and learning process. As part of the study, I sent teams of teachers and administrators to different provinces and regions both to learn from their peers, but also to collaborate and share best practice. We paid all expenses (flight, hotel, meals, etc.) and asked team members to submit receipts for compensation. It was an eye-opener! Like Senator Nancy Ruth, many participants felt that this was a blank cheque. We received dozens of receipts from airport Starbucks and Tim Horton's outlets because people didn't want to wait for their free coffee on the plane. I received claims for Beaver Tails in Byward Market, beers on Granville Island, and fancy desserts from a host of restaurants. One teacher even took a picture of the dial on a parking meter to place a claim for the $2 she had deposited to park while having lunch.
To be honest, there is no practical way to stop this from happening through any kind of claims or accounting system. People will always have their own justification for doing it, and be incensed when you call them on it. What we really need is a cultural change. There has to be time taken to educate employees, executives, public servants, and especially politicians about what is personal and what is professional. People have to honestly ask themselves whether they would be spending this money if it was coming out of their own pockets. Cabinet Ministers who keep limousines on call so that they won't have to find a cab later in the day need to give their heads a shake and remember whose money they are throwing around.
Until that happens we will continue to cluck our tongues about profligate politicians while we expense our own lunches and taxi rides, fly off to conferences because they are in cool places, and expect somebody else to pay for our excesses.
If we are to protect our organizations from having to drill down to enforce "gouda" governance, then we have to learn to apply the smell test to our own "cheesy" claims for compensation.