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The responsibilities of an Approving Official include a variety of knowledge and understanding in the Federal Travel Regulations. Even though the traveler must also have knowledge of the FTR and agency travel policies to ensure their travel claims are entered correctly within the guidelines of the policies, the ultimate responsibility for verifying expenses are valid and necessary for official business and meet the agency’s mission lies with the approver. Along with the FTR the approver should be knowledgeable of their agency’s inner policies and that their travelers abide by them as well. When reviewing authorizations the Approving Official should make sure the traveler has entered reservations and expenses as any prudent traveler would, in making sure that he is saving the agency and the government money as if they were using their own business funds. The traveler is required to only incur expenses that are advantageous to the government.
The approver should verify that the correct per diem location was used for business and that air fare was selected under the contract fares; if needed a justification is entered for non-contract fares. The approver should confirm that the traveler’s lodging was booked under a Fedrooms reservation or that the property is at least a FEMA approved property. If the traveler will be in need of a GOV, rental car or use of POV then this should be included in the authorization for approval before the traveler departs.
The approver is required to know and understand the rules and regulations in approving a traveler to use ‘personal travel combined with business travel’. The traveler’s expenses are to reflect adjustments for personal days, removing any lodging and M & IE on those specific days, the traveler is still entitled to their 3/4 of M & IE on their return day. The Approver needs to verify that he is approving only expenses that are reasonable and necessary to meet the required mission. If actuals are claimed for lodging over per diem then the approver will need to verify that a proper justification is entered into the authorization.
The approving official should be conscious of the budget that is available to his office for expensing travel funds, ensuring that adequate funds are available and approved for his traveler’s use. He will also need to review the accounting codes in the document to make sure they are selected correctly and are appropriate for the trip purpose.
Approver needs to make sure that all reservations are made with the agency’s assigned Travel Management Center, in their travel system. The FTR does allow a few exceptions for booking outside of the system for emergency and other complicated type reservations.
All Approving Officials are recommended to have a backup approver listed in their routing so that they can prevent any unnecessary delays to the traveler. It is mandatory that authorizations are completed and approved in a timely manner to ensure the traveler’s reservations are booked and ticketed properly.
The approver needs to confirm that comments are entered into the document for any changes in travel dates, locations and to changes made in their mode of transportation. Unusual circumstances will also require comments for explanation and justification for miscellaneous expenses as well. If the traveler plans on taking leave they should discuss this with the approver before it is entered into the authorization and then once approved and entered, comments should be added. A traveler will also need to discuss with their approver if he should need to start his TDY from a different place other than his normal residence or duty station. There are rules that apply on how their air fare reservations can be made and what the traveler would be liable for versus what the agency would normally pay him to travel from his normal starting location, cost comparison may be required. Approver needs to verify that travel expenses incurred while traveling in the local travel area, as defined by the agency, are expensed on a local voucher with no per diem claimed.
An approver must review all justifications for audit fails in the document and confirm appropriate for mission. When the voucher is processed the approver is responsible for reviewing all the expenses are entered correctly, verify amounts claimed on the voucher match the amounts on the receipts and verify that all the required receipts are attached.
The Approving Official has the ability to not only approve a document but return it as well if expenses need to be verified, adjusted, or corrected for any reason. Once an approver has stamped a document Approved the document is locked so it is important that the approver makes sure he is reviewing and approving expenses that are accurate to the best of his knowledge.
By: Debbie Hardman
“The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect any position of the Government or my agency.”