This past summer, a group of people from the Region of Durham decided to take a trip to Europe. The trip, to investigate anaerobic digestion technology that may soon be coming this way, was initially kept quiet, with some councillors not even knowing about it until it hit the pages of The Oshawa Express.
And while it’s been known for some time now that this trip cost tens of thousands of dollars for a 10-day scant across France and Spain, it now turns out this work trip had some side trips and perks for some, with visits to tourist destinations on taxpayer dollars.
During the trip, some members of the contingent were able to take in a visit to the Palace of Versailles, take a sightseeing cruise in Paris and take in the sights of the Sagrada Familia Basillica in Barcelona. While these stops would be great if you were on a family vacation, they are simply not acceptable when it is taxpayers footing the bill.
While the dollar amounts attributed to these trips are relatively small – the total for the three excursions is below $1,000 – the amount being spent isn’t really the point. After all, taxpayers were already footing the bill for the group of nine to fly to Europe, put them up in hotels, pay for their food and transport them from city to city – a bill that came in at more than $90,000, or about $1,000 per person per day. That amount of money is more than a lot of people in Durham Region see on their paycheque every two weeks, let alone beyond the range of what they can spend for a trip overseas.
So on top of that expense, now taxpayers are expected to foot the bill for the group’s activities on their days off? It is absolutely ridiculous that a group of people, many of whom are making six-figure salaries that taxpayers are already paying for, could not be asked to foot the bill for their own side adventures.
And who is to say this isn’t an ongoing trend? The Oshawa Express only viewed the expense reports for a single trip.
These expenses, and others like it that may be found, need to be paid back and rules tightened so that it doesn’t happen again. For an organization that touts itself as smart with money and financially prudent, it is insulting that the Region of Durham can expect to just pull from hard earned taxpayer dollars to pay for these excursions.