Halton Region e-Expense Form Solution

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Halton Region delivers a fully automated expense submission solution that streamlines processing and speeds reimbursement of employee expense claims. A secure, fully auditable service ensures that all data is current and available for review by authorized staff.

The Client

The Regional Municipality of Halton is one of eight regional government bodies covering Ontario. It serves residents and businesses in the City of Burlington and Towns of Halton Hills, Milton and Oakville and provides a wide range of essential programs and services. This includes Emergency planning, Housing services, Infrastructure and Construction, and Public Health Programs among many others.

The Challenge

Halton Region’s existing expense form process was entirely paper-based and proved to be challenging to administer throughout the COVID19 pandemic with many staff working remotely. Staff manually filled in an Excel document and scanned copies of their receipts. These documents were then printed, signed and sent to their supervisors for signature. A further approval from the Finance department was then obtained before staff could be reimbursed by cheque.

The Solution

A new automated solution was envisioned whereby staff could fill an online form with details of their mileage and business expenses. The form is designed such that it automatically retrieves and displays the relevant information about the logged in user accessing the form. Supervisor information is auto populated on the form so that staff can confirm who in fact who should be approving their expenses. In order to accommodate frequent changes in the management structure, employees also have the option of selecting an alternate approver from a list of users.

In order for staff information to be updated on a regular basis, a nightly job runs against Azure AD. The job retrieves and update staff information, including their supervisor’s info, to a custom information architecture that includes a dedicated, security trimmed folder for each staff member. Supervisors and alternate approvers are also assigned permissions to the secured folder.

Expenses can also be submitted on behalf of a staff member, by a select group of authorized office administrators. These administrators are also provided with the appropriate access in order to track their submissions.

The form submits and saves its data to custom SharePoint lists and launches an approval workflow implemented using Azure Logic Apps. Microsoft’s Enterprise Data Gateway is used to access the on-premise SharePoint infrastructure. The workflow automatically obtains approvals first from the immediate supervisor and then the Finance department in turn, making the process of review and approval simple and efficient.

Automatic tracking of the year to date kilometres for each staff member ensures that the appropriate expense rate is used to calculate their total dollar expense. The form automatically calculates subtotals for each expense section and then provides a summary section which includes the period covered and total expenses broken down into a reorganized mileage and business expenses summary sections in accordance with Halton Region reporting formats.

Scheduled scripts are run on a nightly basis to generate financial summaries that can be uploaded into Halton Region’s ERP system, to facilitate an additional review of the submitted expenses and to ensure reporting is up-to-date and can be accessed for auditing purposes at any time.

The Results

The solution has been successfully launched and is now being used extensively by all Halton Region’s staff to submit their expenses. Staff are happy with the enhanced user experience provided by the solution, with the additional bonus of receiving reimbursement of expenses much sooner due to a more efficient turn-around of expense processing.