16 March 2009 | Amon Cohen
Line managers spent an average of just 14 seconds scrutinising their subordinates' expense reports, according to a report by American Express Business Travel.
Amex made the discovery during an audit of a client's expense programme. "This is barely enough time to open the report and hit 'approve'," noted Amex in its white paper, Travel as a Strategic Investment - Managing Travel Through the Recession.
While pointing out it cannot be extrapolated that managers at all companies spend so little time approving expenses, David Herrick, Amex senior vice-president and general manager for EMA, said: "Fourteen seconds seems to be a little tight."
A tactical remedy would be to train managers to spend longer on the task, but Herrick told supplymanagement.com the emphasis when monitoring travellers for policy compliance is in any case switching from post-trip to pre-trip approval.
At a recent roundtable discussion on business travel hosted by SM, several travel managers confirmed a swing towards pre-trip approval since the start of the recession. However, travel managers are wary of this development because the delay caused by awaiting pre-trip approval can cause travellers to miss out on booking the cheapest advance fares. The Amex white paper states that in the first six months of 2008, corporate customers who bought tickets 8-14 days before departure saved an average of £34 per flight segment.
"If you are using low-cost carriers or booking a long way in advance, then pre-trip approval may not be so appropriate," said Herrick.