22 May 2009

A rant about "expenses" on both sides of the North Sea

I haven't had a good rant for ages. The current parlimentary expenses scandal in the UK got me thinking about the whole expenses deal.

The crisis in the UK parliament regarding MPs expenses is, first a foremost a victory for "freedom of information". No wander they were so keen to stop this getting out! The current system dates back twenty odd years when that vile bitch who destroyed the heart and soul of the country, changed the system of expenses for members of parliament so that her cronies could fleece the country without paying tax. That system, along with most of her other policies continued into Blair and eventually Brown's, not very left wing, labour governments.

So MPs have been claiming thousands to have their lawns re-turfed, their moats cleaned and to buy floating houses for their pet ducks. More seriously many have built property empires at the tax payers expense. Some have been out-right criminal, claiming mortgages that didn't exist and claiming twice for the same house and I am struggling to see why these people haven’t yet faced criminal charges. Most however have just screwed the system, trying to justify it as recompense for only earning £65000 per year - oh it must be tough!

While is satisfying to see all this coming out in the open I am a bit surprised at how shocked the public are. Are we really that naive? Politicians are, by definition, back stabbing, self serving, scumbags, why would you be surprised that they are screwing the country when presented with such a free for all opportunity?

Meanwhile on the other side of the North Sea, the whole expense thing is far more regulated. Strangely though this doesn't seem to stop the worst coming out in people. State employees and the staff of big companies such as Cornershop Oil are paid a very generous day rate when they are away from home. This is to avoid having to collect a receipt for every cup of coffee. It's a system that is supposed to make life easier but in my experience all it does is cause a huge industry of screwing the system further. A few observations...

1. People see the day rate as extra income rather than covering their costs so they squabble tediously about restaurant bills etc. The day rates are so generous that these people will never be out of pocket but they still want to fleece that little bit extra.
2. Processing an expense claim at the cornershop costs about 1500 nok – that explains what at least some of the missing 32000 people do all day.
3. I have seen people on a field trips in Utah asking about which "overtime code" to use because they spent more than 7.5 hours in the field - for fuck sake! The company has flown them half way around the world to see amazing geology on a course led by world experts, rented a fleet of vehicles and put them in a nice hotel. And there biggest question is about is what over time code to use. People like that are a disgrace and should not be allowed on trips, but it gets better...
4. A group of drillers on a trip in Utah calculated that they were entitled to danger money because they were "in an extreme area away from paved roads, in a country were people carried guns and in an environment that was hot". Do you think they really felt threatened and in danger? No of course not, its just another opertunity to screw the system.
5. It’s not just the big companies, a group of university researchers were totally open about the fact that they stayed in the cheapest hotels and then claimed the highest rate possible to maximize return. It's expenses! Its supposed to make sure you are not out of pocket. It's not supposed to be an earner, and if you think that you deserve extra money for the hardship of "being away from home", then fuckin well stay at home.
6. But my absolute favorite is a guy in a service company who was sent back onshore from a rig after causing "a major safety incident". When called in to the office for a bollocking from his boss, he sat there passively whilst being told he was an idiot etc and then at the end of the meeting produced a claim form for travel and overtime! It’s awesome.

This is all true, scary, depressing, horrible but true...

So what is the point of this rant and how does it relate to British MPs. After all one of these systems is a free for all, the other high regulated. The common theme is that the more generous the system the more people will abuse it. My Argentinean and Spanish buddies largely pay for their own field work and never complain. They get in there own cars or a beat up truck from the department, they drive long distances, they camp or stay in cheap hotels and they are happy to have a chance to go out and look at rocks, because that is what they love to do. In contrast this bunch of spoiled tossers are so busy worrying about how to make even more money they miss the whole point of being out there.

Ahhhh! Feeling much better now - thank you for reading.

No comments: