Need socks, groceries and pet food? Sure, that’s fine. Feel the need to buy some new golf clubs or maybe a teepee? Hey, that’s your concern. Want to gamble on the lottery — or a cosmetic surgery procedure? It’s no big deal until you try to slip them past your employer as expense claims.

These are just a few of the eyebrow-raising employee expense claims cited in an article on BusinessInsider.com. The article highlighted claims from a random poll of 1,600 CFOs at North American companies with at least 20 employees. While the list of dubious expenses is good for a chuckle, it does raise some important questions. Were these employees attempting expense fraud? Were they oblivious to their organization’s expense policy? How did they even get reported in the first place?

The inability to enforce expense policy is a significant problem for many organizations. Without good visibility into spending and built-in checks, companies risk failing to comply with statutory requirements and exposure to expense reimbursement fraud. According to a 2012 report by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, expense reimbursement fraud is nearing 15 percent of all fraudulent cases — an increase of 10 percent over 2010.

A good solution is to integrate expense policies and rules into an automated system. Here are a few features to look for when choosing expense management software.

1) Built-in training and notifications. Integrating triggers and rules provides employees with guidance at the point of purchase or when filing expense claims. For example, an employee booking an expensive business flight might receive an alert suggesting an alternate travel method between certain destinations.

2) System-initiated auditing. Automated systems can generate audit instructions based on an organization’s criteria. It can also help in conducting random audits.

3) Exception handling. A system that offers alternate approval or handling options can reduce frustration for employees and approvers.

In the end, the best solution for dealing with expense claims like lottery tickets and cosmetic surgery is to simply head them off at the pass. Automated expense management software, like Chrome River EXPENSE, can offer a number of great tools that stop mistakes before they happen.

What is the craziest item you’ve ever seen submitted for reimbursement? Share your experiences below in the comments section!

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