Guidelines for Expense Claims for Cabinet Ministers, Opposition Leaders, and Their Staff
Effective January 1, 2017
The Office of the Integrity Commissioner reviews expenses relating to Travel, Meals and Hospitality that are incurred in the performance of a ministerial, parliamentary assistant, opposition leader and their respective staffs’ duty or function.
The review is conducted to ensure that expenses comply with the Allowable Expense Rules (the “Rules”). The Integrity Commissioner will also continue to use various resources as a reference point in determining whether an expense is reasonable.
This document is meant to clarify the Rules by explaining what the Commissioner considers when reviewing expenses, but is not meant to replace the Rules.
If you are unsure whether an expense is allowable, please contact the Office of the Integrity Commissioner for guidance and advice.
When reviewing expenses, the Commissioner keeps in mind the Governing Principle of the Rules (Rule 9): Expenses must be "reasonable and appropriate", taking into account the circumstances in which they were incurred.
In certain instances, it may be necessary and appropriate to make an exception with regards to the amount of an expense or an expense itself. If the person approving the expense believes that an exception should be made because of special circumstance(s), these must be well documented with the claim. The Commissioner will review the circumstance(s) and reason(s) for the exception before determining whether it is allowable.
All exceptions must be fair and equitable, reasonable and appropriate given the circumstances.
Please note that some rules are mandatory and cannot have exceptions (e.g. no alcohol can be claimed with meals – excluding hospitality expenses).
There are two types of allowable meal expenses – those incurred while traveling outside the office area (at least 24 km away), and those incurred while working through normal meal periods within the office area. These are meals purchased by the designated person.
In general, working meals within the office area should not be restaurant meals. These meals should be provided in-house (catered).
For meals outside the workplace, designated persons will be reimbursed at the meal reimbursement rates set out below, regardless of the actual meal costs (i.e. meal allowance). Taxes and gratuities are included in the meal reimbursement rates. Receipts are not required to be submitted with meal claims or retained.
Example: You may incur an expense of $5.50 for breakfast, but you are still eligible to claim the breakfast allowance of $10.00.
Meals Rates in Canada
In limited and exceptional circumstances, where a meal expense is higher than the established meal reimbursement rate, the actual cost of the meal may be reimbursed. In these situations, the claim for reimbursement is to be accompanied by an original itemized receipt and an explanation for exceeding the rate.
Meal Rates Outside of Canada
When determining appropriate meal rates while traveling outside of Canada, please use the rates established by the National Joint Council "NJC" which are found in Appendices C & D. You may access the National Joint Council website link here.
Receipts are not required to be submitted with meal claims or retained.
Identify Attendees - Attribution
Expenses incurred and claimed on behalf of another designated person must be "attributed" to the designated person for the purpose of publicly posting expense information. This means that if an individual bought lunch for a colleague, the claim should include the name of the colleague and the meal allowance amount for the colleague's lunch. The cost for each person's lunch will be found under each of their names on the public disclosure site. The individual who incurred and claimed the expense will be reimbursed for the total of all meals at the meal allowance amount, if allowable (see Appendix 1). Group meal expenses may be reimbursed for the total of all meals, at the meal allowance rate for that meal. Receipts are not required to be submitted or retained with group meal claims.
Hospitality refers to the provision of food and beverages, including alcohol, accommodation, transportation and similar amenities. Hospitality cannot be offered to persons who are members of the government and/or opposition caucuses or employed by the Ontario government, including persons who are appointed to a provincial agency, board or commission.
When extending hospitality, the cost of the meal should strike a balance between economy (the expenses represent a prudent use of public funds) and proportionality (the expenses reflect what is customary for such functions).
When extending hospitality to external parties, alcoholic beverages may be offered in limited circumstances and cannot exceed the total cost of food. Hospitality that consists of only alcohol expenses is not permitted. Where possible, preference should be given to wine, beer and spirits produced in Ontario.
For any meal with MPPs, government or opposition staff in attendance, these people should be identified by name and identify the Ministry, Agency or caucus where they work.
Itemized receipts are required for hospitality expenses.
It is important to provide details. The claim form must state the “To and From” locations as well as “Business Purpose”. A receipt must be provided in order to receive reimbursement. Gratuity should not be more than 10% of the fare.
Mileage vs. Car Rental
All must consider car rental vs. mileage when determining the most economical means of travel. Most car rental agencies offer a government rate of $35 to $60 per day with unlimited mileage.
When renting a car, advance booking is recommended to ensure that an appropriate vehicle is available. Additional insurance coverage for a rental car is not required when a corporate card is used. Where applicable, refuel the vehicle before returning the car to avoid any additional charges.
Using a personal vehicle for business travel within and outside the GTA will be reimbursed on the basis of actual kilometres traveled, excluding kilometres between the claimant's home and regular place of business.
When booking a flight, be sure to choose the most economical fare (e.g. Air Canada Tango/Tango Plus or Porter Firm/Flexible). Very often, even if a change is necessary, the change fees on the lowest priced airfare bring the total price to less than a higher, more flexible fare. For cancellations, credits on low fare flights can be used up to 12 months after the cancellation date.
Business class travel is allowable in limited circumstances with prior approval and written explanation for:
-international flights; and
-domestic and non-continental United States flights if related to the provision of reasonable accommodation or a legitimate business purpose.
Means of Transportation
All travel must include a “Means of Transportation” such as: “drove with Minister in Minister’s car”, “rode with coworker”, etc.
All airfare, rail and bus travel must include a copy of a receipt (even if centrally billed) showing the cost, class and date of booking. Credit card statements alone are not acceptable as a receipt.
If parking a personal vehicle at the airport before taking a flight, claimants should consider using offsite or long term parking to reduce costs.
When booking hotel accommodation, use the the federal online accommodation directory as a guide. The directory provides information on service providers offering government rates.
The directory is available here.
Take into account that significant savings can be achieved by choosing a hotel that is in a less central location, even with the additional cost of taxi fare. However, it is also recommended, and allowed, that a hotel is in a safe environment.
Meals on hotel bills
Meals should be claimed separately and not as part of the hotel bill.
Claims submitted on a timely basis
All claims should be submitted on a timely basis – by the end of the quarter following the quarter in which the expense was incurred.
From time to time, there will be exceptions; however, pursuant to Section 6 of the Act. Such exception should be approved by the Office of the Integrity Commissioner in advance, (if possible). If you have any questions, please contact us at 416-314-8983.
You may also be interested in:
Items to Consider Before and During Your Trip
Submitting Your Expense Claim
Travel Within the GTA
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