Travel reimbursement take a lot of time and effort and -- because you are dealing with significant amounts of money -- is not without risks and problems. Some guidelines and tips can make the process easier:
- In principle, participants are expected to make their own travel arrangements and are reimbursed during or after the event. It is usually not recommended to book travel for partcipants as the organisers will be liable for the cost if participants cancel.
- However, travel often requires special arrangement and exceptions. In these cases, the organisers might book tickets directly (via travel agents or online booking sites) and organise/pay for Visas. Often we have a number of telephone conversations with the individuals who require special provisions, to ensure that there really is no other way, and that they are sincere in their intentions to attend the camp.
- Check if participants can be reimbursed by wire transfer (the preferred solution). Many people in developing countries do not have bank accounts, and in these cases cash reimbursements during the event are often the only (albeit problematic) possibility.
- Make sure there is sufficient cash for reimbursement, but plan carefully to avoid security issues of having a significant amount of money at the camp. Experience from previous events shows that this can easily exceed US$ 10,000.
- When collecting receipts, agree on the exchange rate. Write it down and date it. Agree on the total amount to be reimbursed.
- Set up a system to track expenses that occur without a receipt (for example, local transportation often cannot provide receipts / and in case of corruption the organisers are faced with difficult decisions). Having signed receipts (even if they are not "official" receipts acceptable by accountants) for all expenses is key and usually provides sufficient reporting for funders. At previous events the total amounts of such miscellaneous expenses rarely exceeds US$ 500 to US$1000.
- Have a system for advance payments, e.g. for travel home expenses, including the commitment to fax receipts.
- At Africa Source 2, an unusually low number of participants required travel reimbursements. However, this still meant 50-60 individual travel reimbursements (either as cash during the workshop or by wire transfer after workshop).