Part 4: Travel and accommodation expenditure

Controlling sensitive expenditure: Guidelines for public entities.

Public entity staff may need to incur travel and accommodation costs while conducting the entity’s business elsewhere in New Zealand or overseas.

Issues and principles

Expenditure on travel and accommodation, especially by leaders and senior managers, is one of the types of sensitive expenditure most often brought to our attention. The principles of a justified business purpose, and moderate and conservative expenditure, are particularly relevant.

Travel and accommodation expenditure should be economical and efficient, having regard to purpose, distance, time, urgency, and personal health, security, and safety considerations.


Entities should have travel policies and procedures that:

  • cover both domestic and international travel;
  • require at least all international travel to have prior written approval;
  • include guidance on taking annual leave, staying away over weekends, stopovers, travelling with spouses, and class of travel; and
  • outline the monitoring and reporting arrangements.

Air travel

We expect entities to ensure that:

  • to the extent practical, air travel is booked well ahead of the actual travel, so the expenditure is the most cost-effective possible;
  • discounted economy or economy class is used for journeys of up to a specified number of hours (at least four) of uninterrupted flight duration, except where the distance or hours travelled, work schedule on arrival, or personal health, safety, or security reasons make business class preferable;
  • they have a clearly explained rationale whenever they pay for first class travel (and that such cases are extremely rare); and
  • they have policies on membership of airline clubs, with any membership of such clubs supported by a clear business purpose.

Air points and other travel-related loyalty schemes

Guidance on loyalty reward schemes is given under “goods and services expenditure” (see paragraphs 6.6-6.9).

Meals and accommodation while travelling

With meals and alcohol, we expect entities to:

  • have policies about the value of meals they will pay for;
  • include in their policies guidance on whether the entity will pay for alcohol, and, if so, include limits on what will be paid for;
  • prohibit reimbursement of mini-bar expenses; and
  • state in their policies that separate meal expenses may not be claimed if a meal is provided as part of another package paid for by the entity.

With accommodation, we expect entities to:

  • ensure that accommodation is cost-effective, taking into account the geographic location of the accommodation relative to where staff are working, the standard of accommodation, and safety and security issues; and
  • have a policy relating to costs that may be paid, if any, for when staff stay with a friend or relative rather than in commercial accommodation.

Motor vehicles

We expect the most economical type and size of rental car to be used, consistent with the requirements (including the distance and number of people) of the trip. We expect the driver, and not the entity, to pay any fines (parking or traffic offences) incurred while using a rental vehicle on entity business.

Private use of a rental car should not be permitted except in exceptional circumstances (such as reasonable weekend use when the driver is away from home and undertaking work for the entity before and after the weekend) and the employee reimburses the entity for any additional cost.

We expect the use of taxis to be moderate, conservative, and cost-effective relative to other forms of transport available to the entity. Entity-funded taxis ought not to be used for travel between home and office, unless the reason for the travel is because of work past a reasonable hour, a safety concern, or similar justification, and prior approval for the travel has been given where practicable.

We expect all taxi cards to be issued in an individual’s name to support transparency about who used a taxi card and for what purpose.

Corporate vehicles (provided outside remuneration arrangements) should not generally be used for private purposes. We expect the driver, and not the entity, to pay any fines (parking or traffic offences) incurred while using a corporate vehicle unless the fines relate to an aspect of the condition of the vehicle outside the driver’s control.

We expect entities to ensure that they do not pay for travel by private motor vehicle where travel by other means is more practical and cost-effective. Generally, pre-approval to use a private motor vehicle for entity business must be obtained. We expect the driver, and not the entity, to pay any fines (parking or traffic offences) incurred while using a private vehicle on entity business.

We expect entities to require a completed and signed claim based on distance travelled when reimbursing staff for use of a private vehicle, and the rates of reimbursement for private motor vehicle use to be in line with public sector rates or be an appropriate rate set by the entity.


The probity issue associated with tipping is that it is discretionary, and usually undocumented, expenditure. Tipping should not in any circumstances be extravagant. The principle of moderate and conservative expenditure is particularly relevant.

We expect entities to not meet the costs of tipping by staff while they are on entity business in New Zealand, and to pay for tips during international travel only in places where tipping is local practice.

Other travel issues

Using telecommunications equipment

We expect the use of telecommunications equipment while travelling on entity business to be consistent with the guidance given under “communications technology” (see paragraphs 8.13-8.18).

Private travel linked with official travel

Staff may be allowed to undertake private travel before, during, or at the end of travel paid for by their entity, provided that there is no additional cost to the entity and the private travel is only incidental to the business purpose of the travel.

Travelling spouses, partners, or other family members

As a general principle, travel costs of accompanying spouses, partners, or other family members should not be paid by an entity. In the rare circumstances that involvement of a spouse directly contributes to a clear business purpose, we expect the spouse’s travel to be pre-approved.


We expect the cost of any stopover paid for by the entity to have a clear business purpose and to be pre-approved.

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