Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Gonzo bulls--t! 

I hate this kind of gonzo reporting.
Sun media is trumpeting to a breathless public that "Federal justice department employees have played fast and loose with travel and hospitality rules and cost taxpayers a bundle, an internal audit reveals"
This isn't true at all. Its an inflated story manufactured to embarass the government and a bunch of civil servants who have done virtually nothing wrong.
Here's the actual report Travel and Hospitality - March 2005. The auditors reviewed 331 travel expense claims from a two year period, and found 4 (that's right, four) where the civil servants submitted incorrect claims for personal travel combined with business travel, and one or two where there was some kind of fraud -- the report notes that a civil servant has been fired. Oh, yeah, and there were a few instances where the travel permission form wasn't filled out in quite as much detail as Treasury Board requires, like sometimes it didn't specify the exact kind of air travel authorized, and sometimes the form didn't explain why a government-approved hotel had not been used. The report also notes in its Introduction, however, that the these travel claims are mostly small beer:
. . . a large percentage of the Department's travel transactions are small. For example, in the two fiscal years 2002–2003 and 2003–2004, on average, approximately 70 percent of travel that was classified as Travel–Public Servants was for claims of $500 or less. Similarly, over the same two fiscal years, approximately 85 percent of departmental hospitality claims were for $500 or less.
Its too bad nobody bothered to read the report before writing this story. At least the story admits, rather grudginly, that the department cut its travel expenses in half from 2002-03 to 2003-04, though apparently saving us taxpayers $6 million a year isn't deserving of any credit.

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