According to the public accounts produced by the Ministry of Finance and the Treasury Board for the last fiscal year, only six employees at the Environment Department had travel expenses over $10,000. Five of them are on the management level. They consumed 14 per cent of the budget. Among them four are with the Compliance Division.
MacKinnon says the travel budget for the entire Compliance Division last fiscal year was $514,000. But she can’t provide a breakdown for each regional office, nor can she give a specific amount for inspectors to do audits and inspections.
Tanya Mackenzie, an inspector at the division’s Amherst office for eight years, is in charge of about 100 registered water supplies in the Cumberland county. She says usually during the winter months, her manager will tell her to limit travel. And when that happens, she tries to schedule as much work as possible every time she goes out.
But no matter how many inspections she squeezes into one trip, she doesn’t get paid more for it because the travel budget compensates her according to the mileage of the trip, not the amount of work she’s done during the trip.
Charlotte Sullivan, inspector specialist at the division’s Truro office, says every regional office has different policies of how to utilize the travel budget, but her manager has also come up to her and reminded her to be aware of the number of trips she takes.
She says managers usually have a good idea of how much travel each inspector has to do every year, and that’s how they budget travel every year. But there are also emergencies that can’t be foreseen. For example, inspectors have to do an inspection when somebody makes a complaint about a facility.
Every month, Sullivan fills out a form that lists the mileage of all the trips she has done by date, and she hands it to her manager. Most of the facilities she covers are within a 50-kilometre radius around the Colchester County. But the farthest she had to go was Five Island, which is about 160 kilometres away from her office.
The current provincial government rate for travel expenses shows inspectors get paid 51 cents per kilometre. But they pay for car insurance and repairs themselves. Sullivan says she gets paid for travel about $100 monthly, which allows her to do three trips, whether it’s for meetings, trainings, or inspections.