Interpreting an expenses policy

expensesAt our recent partners’ meeting, Mr Pettifog was in a lather about an expenses policy. He is a committee member of an international grouping of lawyers, known as Societe des Avocats du Droit d’Oeuvres, or SADDO for short. SADDO is an agency of the United Nations, and Mr Pettifog is frequently absent from the UK on official SADDO business.

SADDO has a generous expenses policy, or so Mr Pettifog thought. However, his recent claim for reimbursement of expenses when he was on a jolly important cultural mission to Milan has been turned down. This has meant that Mr Pettfog is out-of-pocket to the tune of several thousand Euros for 5-star hotel accommodation, bottles of champagne, chauffered limousines, and so on. Not to mention tickets for the opera for himself and several members of the Milan Bar. Having failed to recover these expenses from SADDO, he has tried to claim them from our firm, but our expenses clerk and archivist, Deirdre Sprocket, rejected his claim on the grounds that the expenses were not incurred on firm business. Hence his fury.

After he calmed down a little, he asked the firm’s junior partner, Dominic d’Aubusson, if he would start an action in the English High Court for judicial review of the SADDO policy, on the basis that SADDO is a quasi-governmental agency and therefore subject to judicial review. In particular, Mr Pettifog objected to the following terms in the FAQs sections of the policy:

  1.  Question: When there are two claimants sharing a room, may the individual allowances be added together? Answer: Where two people are required to stay overnight on business and wish to share a room, claims should be made in the spirit of the policy. Claims for shared rooms should not exceed the maximum reimbursement allowance for overnight accommodation for a single member. [It seems that Mr Pettifog and his friend and fellow committee member, Edmund Longshanks QC, decided – towards the end of a very good meal at Il Luogo di Aimo e Nadia – to book a room together in Milan that cost roughly twice the amount of the hotel allowance for individual committee members. They can’t understand why this wouldn’t be allowed, as it cost SADDO no more than if they booked separate rooms. Mr Pettifog wants Dominic to run the argument that this refusal is based on a policy of discrimination against homosexuals, while avoiding any suggestion that he is, in fact, a homosexual.]
  2. la scalaQuestion: Can members claim for taxi journeys to collect paperwork from an office that is not their usual place of work to take to a SADDO meeting? Answer: If this is an irregular occurrence this detour en route to a SADDO meeting can be claimed. If this becomes a regular occurrence, then the costs cannot be claimed as regular occurrences may mean it becomes a commuting journey. In order to avoid this, it is respectfully suggested that members look at different methods of collecting papers. [Mr Pettifog is of the view that Teatro alla Scala, Milan, counts as his office for this purpose, in that he had left a copy of some confidential client papers in the crush bar several nights earlier and came back to collect them. Therefore, he should be able to claim for taxi journeys to and from La Scala. Surprisingly, it seems that the Secretariat of SADDO disagrees with this interpretation of the rules.]
  3. Question: Are members entitled to claims taxi fares to and from the restaurant where they are taking their evening meal? Answer: Costs will only be reimbursed if the taxi journey was milano-transportation-maptaken home / back to their hotel late at night when there is either no public transport or it would be unreasonable to expect someone to use it. [Mr Pettifog wishes Dom to argue that it would be completely unreasonable to take public transport after an evening on SADDO business entertaining foreign dignitaries. He feels it would leave a very poor impression with said foreign dignitaries. Apparently the SADDO Secretariat is suggesting that he could have caught a Metropolitan Line train from Duomo station, very near La Scala, which would have taken him directly to his hotel.]

Readers who have experience of interpreting expenses policies, or of actions for judicial review, are invited to comment on whether Mr Pettifog’s action is likely to succeed.


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