What's your problem?

After reading your January 2006 column, I too have a similar issue regarding expenses. I run a small company in the UK along with a sales director. We both report to a European MD. For all intents and purposes we are equal. I'm the finance director. He is putting expenses through the petty cash while I am away on business and pushing these through a junior clerk, who will not query him due to his seniority. I find these during routine reviews of petty cash - there are family meals and entertainment in men-only clubs.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Although I question him, he says we are equal and it is not up to me to knock back expenses when they have been approved by his boss. His boss sees only a front-sheet of his expenses claim and not the details. I've had issues in the past where our mutual boss has accused me of being personal and not business-minded, and I'm concerned that if I bring this to his attention he'll say the same. Should I just keep knocking back the expenses and wait for him to complain to our boss or go to the top and get this sorted?

A: The two of you may be equal in terms of company status but you each have clear divisional responsibilities. Your colleague has ultimate responsibility for Sales and you have ultimate responsibility for Finance. The authorisation and monitoring of expense claims, from people of all levels, fall firmly into your territory. If you don't chuck out those that are clearly and demonstrably invalid, you're knowingly aiding and abetting fraud. Both your conscience and your concern for your professional reputation should help stiffen your resolve in this matter.

I doubt if your colleague will take it up with your mutual boss - but if he does, and you've got the evidence, that should sort things out once and for all.

- Address your problems to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into. - Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. His book Another Bad Day at the Office (Penguin, £6.99) was reissued last month.

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