New research has cast doubt on the accuracy of mileage expense claims across Europe, with more than half of those responsible for authorisation saying they rarely or never query expenditure during the sign-off process.

A study of 1,130 employees with the authority to sign off on expenses by expense, travel ad invoice management solution provider SAP Concur found 56 per cent said they sign off claims without question, while only 13 per cent of businesses look into the accuracy of claims often and 31 per cent do so from time to time.

It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that only 29 per cent of authorisers considered themselves to be very confident in the accuracy of mileage claims. The majority (54 per cent) said they are ‘rather’ confident and 17 per cent were not very confident.

SAP Concur data shows that last year, the average European business traveller claimed for 1,978 miles. In the UK alone, US$222 million (around £168 million) was spent on mileage reimbursement.

Despite this, only 27 per cent of respondents often analyse mileage claims, while 39 per cent do so from time to time. With 66 per cent of respondents saying employees can make up to 50 mileage claims per week – and 34 per cent reporting even more claims – SAP Concur says businesses are potentially reimbursing too much and are leaving themselves open to fraud.

The data also reveals that outdated processes may be to blame for a lack of queries on claims; 75 per cent of respondents said employees make mileage claims in work time, but only 16 per cent are able to complete a claim in less than one day. More than half (56 per cent) take up to six days to request mileage reimbursement, while it takes a week for 15 per cent.

This is likely due to the fact that 83 per cent of companies are using paper-based processes – 52 per cent use a special form and 32 per cent rely on spreadsheets. Only a third of respondents use an online or web-based expense tool for mileage.

Emma Maslen, UK MD of enterprise at SAP Concur, commented: “Millions are spent on reimbursing travellers’ mileage expenses every year – and yet it would seem that businesses are taking what can at best be described as a relaxed approach when it comes to ensuring they’ve got the right checks and balances in place. This throws up two potential issues.

“Firstly, and rather obviously, they are losing cash like a leaky bucket and secondly, mileage could be acting as a ticking duty of care time bomb. Every time a member of staff travels for work, companies have a legal duty of care to predict the risks they face and be able to respond to them. Understanding the mileage your employees are doing is about more than simply improving cashflow visibility and streamlining admin – it’s about people. Companies need to be able to integrate mileage into their view to ensure that they are eliminating blindspots and doing their best by employees. The survey suggests that, at the moment, that’s simply not happening.

“What’s clear from this study is that mileage is rumbling along, creating productivity niggles and that companies are lacking the tools needed to generate insight into mileage claims, understand their human impact as well as understand how they are linked to the bottom line. To overcome this challenge, companies need to ensure they’ve got the right platforms in place to make it easy for employees to file mileage expenses and easy for the business to get the insights it needs to make informed decisions.”

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