Part 5: Expenses when travelling

Controlling sensitive expenditure: Guide for public organisations.

Public sector staff might need to incur travel and accommodation costs while travelling in New Zealand or overseas for work.

Issues and principles

Issues about expenditure on travel and accommodation, especially by governors, chief executives, and managers, are often brought to our attention. The principles of a justifiable business purpose and moderate and conservative expenditure are particularly relevant here.

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

Public organisations should have travel policies and procedures that:

  • consider technology-enabled solutions as opposed to travel in person;
  • cover domestic and international travel;
  • require written approval before travel;
  • provide guidance on taking annual leave, staying away over weekends, stopovers, travelling with spouses or partners, and class of travel; and
  • outline the monitoring and reporting arrangements.

Cash advances

Where a staff member is required to travel overseas for work, it might be necessary to provide them with a cash advance. The public organisation's policies and procedures should allow for this. In these instances, the cash advance should be set at an appropriate level having regard to the circumstance, properly documented and accounted for, and reconciled to actual expenses on return.

Air travel

Public organisations should ensure that:

  • air travel is booked to achieve the most cost-effective fare;
  • when deciding what class of ticket to purchase, cost is balanced with other considerations, such as purpose of travel, distance, time, urgency, security, and safety considerations. One option organisations can consider, if time allows, is whether it would be considerably cheaper to fly long distance in economy class, arriving earlier to allow rest;
  • there is a clearly explained rationale whenever a premium economy or business class ticket is purchased – business class is the exception, not the norm; 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

Accruing air points9 from business-related travel can have significant personal benefit and potentially incentivise wasteful travel. Public organisations need policies to manage this risk.

We expect public organisations, to the extent that it is practically possible within the requirements of the law, to:

  • treat air points that staff accrue when travelling for work as the property of the organisation;
  • use business air point rewards to benefit only the organisation (this could include using the air points for personal reasons and reimbursing the organisation);
  • ensure that staff keep a record of business air points accrued, air points used to benefit the organisation, and the balance of air points remaining, and regularly supply the organisation with a report of this record;
  • ensure that processes are in place to identify if staff are accruing a large number of business air points; and
  • ensure that business air points are used for travel where possible.

There are complexities to managing air points and the personal benefit that might come from them. Some airlines are aware of these issues and might offer schemes that assist public organisations to manage them.

Meals, accommodation, and transport while travelling


With reference to meals while travelling,10 we expect organisations to:

  • give guidance to staff that describes what is appropriate and reasonable to spend on meals; and
  • state in their policies that separate meal expenses cannot be claimed if a meal is provided as part of another package paid for by the organisation – for example, when lunches and dinner are included in conference registration.

Increasingly, the expectation is that public organisations should not allow for reimbursement of alcohol purchases through travel or accommodation expenses. The public expect prudence. Alcohol consumption is seen as a personal choice that public servants should pay for themselves.


We expect organisations to:

  • ensure that accommodation is cost-effective;
  • take account of the accommodation's location relative to where staff are working;
  • check the standard and type of accommodation and safety and security issues; and
  • have a policy relating to costs/koha that might be paid, if any, for when staff stay with a friend or relative rather than in paid accommodation.


With reference to transport while travelling, we expect organisations to:

  • ensure that the most economical type and size of rental car to be used is consistent with the requirements (including the distance, terrain, weather, and number of people) of the trip;
  • have a policy that the driver, not the organisation, will pay fines (parking or traffic offences) incurred while using a rental vehicle on business;
  • ensure that any private use of a rental car incurs no additional cost to the organisation and is reasonable in the circumstances; and
  • consider other cost-effective travel, such as public transport and rideshare.

Motor vehicles

We expect the use of taxis to be moderate, conservative, and cost-effective relative to other forms of transport. Public organisations are starting to use alternative forms of transport, such as those mentioned in paragraph 5.13.

Rideshare options are most often charged through an application (app) linked to a credit card. In these instances, see Part 4 for guidance on making credit card purchases. If the app is set up to use a personal credit card, the public organisation will need processes to distinguish legitimate work expenses from personal expenses, including enough evidence to support the business reason for the work expenses and documentation to support the payment.

Organisation-funded transport should not be used for travel between home and work, unless the reason for the travel is due to work commitments requiring work beyond a reasonable hour, a safety concern, or similar justification. Approval for the travel should be 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. See Part 4 on using credit cards and purchasing cards for additional guidance.

Corporate vehicles

Corporate vehicles (provided outside remuneration arrangements) should not be used for private purposes. We expect the driver, not the organisation, 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.

Private vehicles

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

We expect public organisations to require a completed and signed claim based on distance travelled when reimbursing staff for using a private vehicle. The rates of reimbursement for a private vehicle should also be in line with the allowable expense for using a private vehicle for business purposes recommended by the Inland Revenue Department or an appropriate rate set by the organisation. Any claim should clearly state the business reason for the travel.


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

We expect staff of public organisations not to tip while they are travelling for work in New Zealand. We expect organisations to allow tipping expenses in countries where it is local practice and where it is appropriate in the circumstances. In these cases, organisations can provide staff members a daily allowance before travel to allow for this. This should be documented in the organisation's policies, and any unused funds are to be accounted for.

Other travel issues

Using telecommunications equipment

We expect guidance on the use of telecommunications equipment while travelling for work to be consistent with the guidance on information communications technology resources in Part 9.

Private travel combined with work travel

Staff members can go on private travel before, during, or at the end of travel paid by their organisation, provided there is no additional cost to the organisation and the private travel is only incidental to the business purpose of the travel. The organisation should have a clear process in place, set out in its policy, to ensure that any additional costs (for example, travel insurance) are identifiable and reimbursed as soon as is practicable after they have been incurred.

Spouses, partners, or other family members accompanying travel

A public organisation should not usually pay for travel costs of accompanying spouses, partners, or other family members. 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 in accordance with the organisation's policy and delegations. The travelling staff member should discuss with their manager if they intend any family member to accompany them on work-related travel regardless of whether the organisation contributes to costs. This is to ensure that there is proper consideration of any perceived personal benefit. Public organisations should consider matters such as insurance as well as cost when approving family members' accompanying travel.


We expect the cost of any stopover that the organisation pays for to have a clear business purpose, be moderate and conservative, and be pre-approved. This could include a staff member flying long distance in economy class requiring a short (24-hour) stopover to aid their recovery when they arrive at their final destination.

9: Rental companies and hotel chains often have similar schemes.

10: There are two main ways that public organisations can cover expenses (in particular, meals) of their staff while travelling – having a daily allowance or individuals claiming back expenses on return. Where an organisation is using daily allowances, the standard rate should be linked to being appropriate and reasonable. For guidance on rates for international travel, public organisations can refer to the New Zealand Foreign Affairs and Trade Schedule of Per Diem Rates to cover the costs of meals, accommodation, and incidentals while overseas. See