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HindustanTimes Thu,25 Dec 2014

Don't submit fake, inflated bills; you could get sacked

Mahua Venkatesh and Himani Chandna Gurtoo, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, March 10, 2013
First Published: 20:47 IST(10/3/2013) | Last Updated: 02:06 IST(11/3/2013)

Be careful when you submit travel, medical, entertainment and other bills to claim reimbursements for expenses allowed by your employer. Companies, both foreign and domestic, hit by shrinking profits, are poring over expense statements submitted by employees to weed out fake or higher-than-justified expenses on various heads.

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This move will help companies - like Philips Electronics, HSBC India, Infosys, Reliance Group, RPG Group, Mercedes Benz India, among others - not only cut costs in financially straitened times but also improve governance.

Till recently, Indian companies - unlike many MNCs - were quite lax in this regard and accepted bills for medical expenses, LTA, entertainment and official travel without question, but that is now changing.

"We have put in place stringent audit measures. Claims are now being scrutinised carefully, unlike earlier times, to ensure compliance (with audit standards)," Amit Das, senior VP, Group human resources, RPG Group, told HT.

Canadian apparels and accessories major Woodland has put in place four-level checks to audit expenses. "Padding an expense amounts to fraud. So, rather than wait for a larger problem to build up, we are questioning expenses that look extraordinary or abnormal," said Amol Dhillon, vice-president, strategy & planning, Woodland. "Strict action will be taken against those found falsifying their expense reports."

Senior HR executives across the board said on condition of anonymity that they would even consider sacking employees who fudge expenses.

A slightly older trend is that of companies imposing travel restrictions and embargoes on lavish expense accounts.  For example, in several companies, executives who were earlier entitled to fly business class to now travel economy.

Many other companies have stopped footing insurance premiums for employees' parents.  Entertaining clients with expensive wines and spirits could also be a thing of the past.

"They have started behaving prudently," said Aditya Narayan Mishra, president of staffing major Randstad India.

"We have undertaken several measures to cut expenditure, including on travel, to maintain the financial health of the company," a senior executive of Reliance Capital said. 

"Unlike before, business conferences have moved from 5 stars to other luxury but affordable resorts," said Kamal Karanth, MD at US-based manpower outsourcing firm Kelly Services.

Firms said most of these practices would continue even after the economic situation improves.


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