Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

Sensitive Expenditure Procedure and Guidelines

Category Finance
Type Procedure
Approved by Council, 14 October 2015
Date Procedure Took Effect 14 October 2015
Last Approved Revision 29 July 2019
Sponsor Chief Financial Officer
Responsible Officer Compliance Analyst, Office of Risk Assurance and Compliance
Review Date 29 July 2024

Purpose

The purpose of these procedures is to provide guidance to staff and other relevant individuals on the application of the University’s Sensitive Expenditure Policy.

Organisational Scope

This is a University-wide procedure and guidelines, covering all group entities that are wholly owned by the University. It shall apply to all University staff or individuals including the University’s Council members and students, where they are incurring costs on the University’s behalf.

Spending in research projects must comply with this procedure and guidelines and any additional more restrictive requirements contained in the funding contract, accompanying rules or legislation.

This procedure and guidelines should be read in conjunction with the University’s Sensitive Expenditure Policy.

Policy Content


1. Approval of sensitive expenditure

(a) Approval of sensitive expenditure should be given:

       i. only when the person approving the expenditure is satisfied that the principles in the Sensitive Expenditure Policy have been adequately met
       ii. before the expenditure is incurred, wherever practical
       iii. only when an approved budget and delegated authority exist
       iv. by a person senior to the person who will benefit or who might be perceived to benefit from the sensitive expenditure

(b) In the case of the Vice-Chancellor, final approval shall be given by the Chancellor.

(c) In the case of the Chancellor, final approval shall be given by the Convenor of the Audit and Risk Committee.

(d) In the case of the Convenor of the Audit and Risk Committee, final approval shall be given by the Pro-Chancellor.

(e) In the case of all other Council members, final approval shall be given by the Chancellor.

(f) If staff are unsure about the escalation of approvals they should contact the Compliance Analyst, Office of Risk, Assurance and Compliance.

(g) Where Sensitive Expenditure is required to be approved by Deans, Pro-Vice-Chancellors, Heads of Division or the Vice-Chancellor the relevant form should be completed:

      i. Events
      ii. Gifts
      iii. Donations

(h) Where Sensitive Expenditure is required to be approved by Heads of Departments or budget holders this approval can be granted in a method deemed appropriate by the authoriser. Examples of this would include email confirmation or PCard approval where prior approval was not practical.

(i) Approvals can be granted in principle or for a series of events at the discretion of the approver.

2. Claims and supporting documentation

(a) Claims and supporting documentation should be of the same type and standard outlined in the Financial Delegations Policy except that greater detail should be provided where the documentation does not fully explain why the sensitive expenditure was necessary. It is a requirement for sensitive expenditure that supporting documentation is original. Copies of original documents or credit card receipt slips or credit card statements are not acceptable evidence.

3. Use of University-owned Business units

(a) University-owned business units must be used wherever possible. This includes, but is not limited to, the University Union and UniPrint. Therefore any goods or services covered by the Sensitive Expenditure Policy will be subject to this directive.

4. Travel and accommodation expenditure

(a) The University’s policy and procedures for travel and travel related expenditure can be found at:

      i. Travel and Travel Related Costs Policy
      ii. Travel Planning Procedures

5. Entertainment and hospitality expenditure with external parties

(a) Entertainment and hospitality is defined as business expenditure usually for the purposes of:

      i. building relationships
      ii. representation of the organisation, or
      iii. reciprocity of hospitality

(b) This expenditure can cover a range of expenditure from coffee with a research colleague while at a conference to a fully catered alumni event.

(c) For the purposes of this procedure and guidelines staff, students, contractors, suppliers and potential suppliers are not considered to be external parties.

(d) The principles of a justified business purpose, and moderate and conservative expenditure are particularly relevant.

(e) In most instances the guidelines pertaining to meals and alcohol should apply. In instances where the expenditure may not meet the guidelines pertaining to meals and alcohol staff should be prepared to demonstrate why the spending was appropriate.

(f) Approval must be gained from the person holding delegated authority to expend the budget being charged. If the person holding the delegated authority could be a beneficiary, or a perceived beneficiary, of the expenditure then the one-up principle for sign-off must apply. Where practical this approval should be sought before the entertainment or hospitality expenditure has been incurred.

6. Farewell and retirement functions

(a) Expenditure on farewell and retirement functions for staff members will only be at the University’s expense if they are formal, organised by a University department and are moderate and conservative.

(b) The time of day, size, scale and nature of the function should be commensurate with the staff member’s length of service and role. It is not expected that formal farewell functions paid by the University will be held for staff with less than five years of service.

(c) The first option for a venue for farewell and retirement functions should be on campus. If the function must be held off-campus due to unavailability of a suitable on campus venue, then the choice of venue must be appropriate and moderately priced.

(d) Approval must be gained before the event from the person holding delegated authority to expend the budget being charged. This approval can be granted even when the person holding the delegated authority could be a beneficiary, or a perceived beneficiary.

7. Staff recognition, team building, retreats, student events and Christmas functions

(a) For any event under this category it should be demonstrable that the event has a justified business purpose and the expenditure is moderate and conservative.

(b) Where possible the venue for events under this category should be on campus. If the function must be held off-campus due to unavailability of a suitable on campus venue, then the choice of venue must be appropriate and moderately priced.

(c) Approval must be gained before the event from the person holding delegated authority to expend the budget being charged. If the person holding the delegated authority could be a beneficiary, or a perceived beneficiary, of the expenditure then the one-up principle for sign-off must apply. When the person holding the delegated authority or the person granting one-up approval is an invited attendee, rather than the organiser or host they can still grant approval.

(d) Low value events, such as morning teas, afternoon teas, and staff/student events can be approved by a Head of Department or Service Division provided they aren’t frequent and they follow the principles set out in the Sensitive Expenditure Policy. This applies even when the Head of Department or Service Division are also in attendance at the event.

(e) Where the University is providing low value catering primarily intended for students approval should come from the Head of Department, Head of Service Division or from Directors, Head of Service or Managers within Operations, External Engagement, Research Office and Student and Academic Services. This is also the case if staff (including the authoriser) benefit from this catering where the benefit is incidental to the purpose of the catering.

(f) If meals or alcohol are included in the cost of these activities, then the principles for those categories of expenditure, found elsewhere in these procedures should apply.

(g) The University has an organisation wide Graduation function and as such if departments wish to hold their own function these should be modest and reasonably priced.

8. Meals and alcohol

(a) Meals must have a clear business purpose and be moderately priced. As a guide they should not exceed NZD$65 per head for dinner and NZD$45 per head for lunch. These amounts include beverages. Dollar values specified are in New Zealand dollars and inclusive of GST.

(b) Where possible the venue for meals should be in University owned and catered premises.

(c) Expenditure on alcohol should be considered an infrequent event and normally only be purchased to accompany an evening meal. Alcohol sufficient to provide one drink per participant is acceptable. The alcohol provided should be mid-range and must not include spirits.

(d) The University would not normally pay for a staff member or University representative’s partner’s meal and alcohol unless the presence of a partner is of benefit to the University, such as for cultural reasons. Permission should be sought from the approver prior to the meal occurring.

(e) The cost of staff or University representative travel from and to home for a local University function is not a business expense so will not be paid by the University.

9. Café meetings

(a) Café meetings between staff (or between staff and students) will not be funded by the University. If staff choose to meet in a café the expense is personal, not business related.

(b) Café meetings with external guests will be paid by the University where it is appropriate to do so. In such cases, it is a requirement that University-owned cafés are used wherever possible.

10. Recruitment dinners

(a) Dinners with staff and prospective candidates are acceptable for the recruitment of academic or executive positions. Staff attendance should normally be limited to four with any exceptions to be prior approved by the relevant Pro-Vice-Chancellor.

(b) Dinners with staff and prospective candidates for the recruitment of all other general staff positions are not acceptable except in exceptional circumstances, in which case the approval of one of the Vice-Chancellor, a Deputy Vice-Chancellor, a Pro-Vice-Chancellor or the Chief Operating Officer is required.

11. Koha and Pacific Gifting

(a) The University has separate policies that cover Koha and Pacific Gifting payments:

      i. Koha Payments Policy and Procedure
      ii. Pacific Gifting Policy, Procedure and Guidelines

12. Giving Gifts

(a) The giving of gifts to University staff where the University makes a contribution in addition to funds raised through contributions by staff is only acceptable in the following circumstances:

      i. Farewells and retirements for staff with more than five years of service to the University
      ii. The bereavement of a close family member of a staff member
      iii. On the occasion of a staff member’s serious illness or accident

(b) The giving of gifts to external parties or individuals where the University makes a contribution is only acceptable in the following circumstances:

      i. Recognition and thanks for unpaid work given by non-staff members for the benefit of the University.
      ii. A meeting, event or ceremony where the giving or exchanging of gifts is customary, other than Koha or Pacific Gifts which is covered elsewhere in these procedures and is subject to a separate policy.

(c) Any gifts up to and including NZD$100 must be pre-approved by the head of the Division responsible for the cost.

(d) Gifts for purposes not included in clause 12 (a) and (b) or for a value above NZD$100 will require the approval of the Vice-Chancellor. This function has been delegated to the Chief Financial Officer to review in the first instance.

(e) Only one gift from the University should be purchased and this should be arranged by the line manager of the individual receiving the gift.

(f) Under no circumstances can gifts given by the University be exchanged for cash by the recipient.

(g) Gifts for other events (including births, engagements, weddings, birthdays, Easter and Christmas) will not be paid for by the University.

13. Donations

(a) A donation is a payment (in money or by way of goods or services) made voluntarily and without expectation of receiving goods or services in return.

(b) All donations must be pre-approved by the Vice-Chancellor.


14. Sale of surplus assets to staff

(a) The University’s procedures around sales of surplus assets to staff is contained in the Assets Procedure.

15. Loyalty reward scheme benefits

(a) Loyalty reward schemes provide a benefit to the customer for continuing to use a particular supplier of goods or services. Generally, the rewards tend to be given to the named individual who orders or purchases the goods or services, regardless of who has paid for them.

(b) In such cases it is impractical to control the use of these rewards, but as far as is practicable, staff should use loyalty rewards for the benefit of the University or for business-related activity.

16. Private use of University assets

(a) Any physical item owned, leased, or borrowed by the University is considered an asset for the purpose of this section. This includes photocopiers, phones, digital devices, internet access, and stationery. As a general rule, staff should not use University assets for personal reasons unless approval is obtained from the manager of the department responsible for the asset and a reasonable charge is made that recovers at least the direct costs of that usage. However, it is recognised that it is sometimes impossible to avoid a personal element of use during business use of an asset. When this occurs it should be clear that the personal use was secondary to the use for business purposes and that no additional cost was incurred by the University as a result of the personal use. It is the responsibility of the staff member to provide this evidence if requested.

17. Clothing and grooming

(a) Other than uniforms and health and safety-related clothing, staff should not be clothed or groomed at the University’s expense when they are engaged in a normal business activity (whether in New Zealand or overseas), except when allowed for under an employment agreement.

18. Care of dependants

(a) Payments for the care of dependants, other than under employment agreements, are not permitted unless there is a clear business purpose, and prior approval is received from the Vice-Chancellor or the Director of Human Resources.

19. Miscellaneous staff support and welfare expenditure

(a) There is a wide variety of expenditure that can fall into this category of sensitive expenditure, and can include club and professional memberships, motor vehicles use, and access to papers, magazines and periodicals.

(b) The following principles shall apply to this category of expenditure:

      i. Payments and rewards in lieu of, or additional to, a staff member’s usual periodic remuneration can be made where they are provided for in the staff member’s employment agreement.
      ii. Where a payment or reward is not provided for in a staff member’s employment agreement, prior approval must be obtained from the Vice-Chancellor or the Director of Human Resources before a payment can be made or a reward provided.
      iii. Both Financial Services and Human Resources must be contacted prior to seeking approval to ensure that the payment or reward is appropriate and consistent with similar circumstances and that any taxation implications are clearly understood and appropriately addressed.

20. Compliance

(a) Transactions are monitored regularly by Financial Services Division and the Office of Risk, Assurance and Compliance for compliance with this policy.

(b) The Vice-Chancellor or any approver as per clauses 1(b) through to 1(f) has the authority to disallow any expenditure considered to be unreasonable.

(c) Breaches of this policy will be reported to the Vice-Chancellor and may result in disciplinary action.

Related Policies, Procedures and Forms

Contact for Further Information

If you have any queries regarding the content of this policy or need further clarification, contact the Compliance Analyst on steve.nicholls@otago.ac.nz