Editorial

11/13/2012

Committee responsible for financial oversight

The Brunswick Audit Committee that was established by the City Commission is suggesting that the commission change its policy for reporting travel expenses. All expenses, all costs associated with any legitimate business trip taken on behalf of the city and its residents, should be itemized and better explained.

Commissioners are not doing this now. While required to hand in receipts for reimbursement, there is no rule that specifies they must turn in any kind of report or explanation for the expense incurred.

The Audit Committee does not believe this is a wise practice, and for obvious reasons. It opens the door to potential abuse, something that is not uncommon in the world we live in today.

It's also not exactly what one might consider open government, especially in this day and time when travel by business and many government entities has been sharply reduced or cut out all together. Austere times are austere times, and that includes foregoing that third or fourth trip to Atlanta or to some other tourist destination just to hear what one already knows or has heard umpteen times before. It's not fair to taxpayers, many of whom are still lifting themselves out of the clutches of the Great Recession.

At the very least, trips should be recorded in enough detail as to eliminate any question or suspicion of its worth or costs. If the information provided cannot stand up to public scrutiny, then the trip should not have been taken in the first place.

Commissioners also should stay within the travel budget they set for themselves each year. They know far in advance what's on the calendar, so Georgia Municipal Association meetings should never be a surprise. If it's not important enough to budget for in May, then it should not be important enough to attend in September.

Fiscal responsibility are key words here. It's something the city needs more of, and the commission can start by strengthening its travel policy.