Business Practices

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E-Travel Price Resistance

»Posted by on Feb 4, 2015 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

When e-travel first came to our agency, some of the strongest resistance came from this new database cost transparency; all the different fees were a significant point of stakeholder resistance and later an indicator of evolving cultural change.  Price sensitivity has been changing as people become more accustomed to e-travel. As E-travel came on line, some of the most vocal complaints that we heard from the program offices and individual travelers involved the sudden “appearance” of fees for booking online or going through an agent.  The fee schedule was confusing and could be complex.  Many claimed that they had never had to pay the fees before (they had, but often they were considered part of the ticket price), and there were a lot of complaints about...

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FedRooms

»Posted by on Jan 27, 2015 in Business Practices, Hotels | 0 comments

FedRooms, formerly known as the Federal Premiere Lodging Program (FPLP), is the official Federal Government lodging program that will allow for substantial savings.  The FedRooms rate in comparison to “government” rates will always be at lower cost to matching prices, which creates a savings for your agency. The Government negotiates FedRooms rates while “government” rates are set by the vendor and are arbitrary. Other benefits of staying at a FedRooms hotel are the 4 p.m. (or later) day of arrival cancellation policy, no early departure fees or any other hidden fees.  Hotels that are approved by FEMA as fire safe hotels offer the Fedrooms rate. Book the FedRooms rate using either your E-Gov System, your travel management center (TMC) or online...

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Travel Teamwork

»Posted by on Jan 26, 2015 in Business Practices, History and Overview, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

I work in the Travel Division of a Government Shared Service Provider (SSP). Under the Director’s office is a section for Division wide policy research and information. Travel is a broad subject; therefore, the Division is broken down into two Branches of travel expertise. One is for travelers relocating to a new city or country which is called Permanent Change of Station. The Branch in which I work is for travelers that are traveling on a temporary basis and is called Temporary Duty Services. This is for travelers that will be traveling for one day up to approximately a month. It can be more but generally, the time-frame is typically a week or less. Our Branch is then broken down into the following areas: Customer Service, Accounting, and Charge Card. In...

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Split Disbursement

»Posted by on Jan 23, 2015 in Business Practices | 1 comment

Effective October 1, 2005, OMB Circular A-123 mandated the use of split disbursement for government travelers. Split disbursement is the process of dividing a travel voucher reimbursement between the charge card vendor and the traveler. The balance owed to each is sent directly to the appropriate party. On April 21, 2005, the Department of the Treasury formally waived requirements of 31 CFR 208.6 and 210.5. This waiver allowed Federal agencies to issue part or all of an employee’s travel reimbursement to the travel card-issuing bank for crediting to the employee’s travel card account. For more information on the split disbursement waiver, you may visit this website: http://www.fms.treas.gov/news/split_travel_disbursement_waiver.pdf Split disbursement offers a...

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Travel Professional Resources/Best Practices

»Posted by on Jan 22, 2015 in Business Practices | 0 comments

In section 5a, it was interesting to read about all resources available should questions arise. In my case, a help desk is just a call away and questions, concerns, and problems, are efficiently and expeditiously handed. I did find this section helpful as it listed all the available sources and their email addresses. I also found it informative to learn that each federal agency might have a travel policy that incorporates relevant regulations and procedures to that agency. That certainly is the case with the Postal Service. In reading section 5b, I also thought of the term “Best Practices” to describe most of the material. As the section initially stated, travel is a small part of most employee’s jobs. The less time it takes to make official travel...

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Global Distribution Systems

»Posted by on Jan 20, 2015 in Airlines, Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems | 0 comments

The information in Section 2A on Global Distribution Systems (GDS) was very informative and interesting. It has been my experience that many Government travelers do not understand the GDS underlying our Online Booking Engines and E-Gov travel Systems. One improvement that would be extremely helpful to the Government would be if the General Services Administration could convince all airlines that want to participate in the City Pair Program, be required to be mandatory participants in the GDS. It is frustrating to our users when they follow all the Government’s mandatory requirements such as mandatory use of the city pair program, mandatory use of an E-Gov Travel system and are still charged a full service fee because the airline does not participate in the GDS....

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Global Distribution Systems (GDS)

»Posted by on Jan 20, 2015 in Airlines, Business Practices, Global Distribution Systems, Hotels, Rental Cars, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

How much do you know about the global distribution system (GDS) that is used by your E-Gov Travel System?  Maybe your E-Gov System uses Sabre, Galileo/Apollo, Worldspan or Amadeus.  Currently, these are the four major GDS systems. My agency chose an E-Gov Travel System that uses the GDS, Sabre. The GDS houses the necessary information that will allow travel agents to book and sell airline tickets, book hotel rooms, make rental car reservations, and reserve rail reservations and more. The first GDS, Sabre, was created by the airlines in the 1960s.  Sabre has been around a lot longer than its competitors; Amadeus was created in 1987, Worldspan in 1990 and Galileo/Apollo in 1993. These complex systems have numerous capabilities.  Besides what was previously...

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Federal Government Travel

»Posted by on Jan 15, 2015 in Airlines, Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

As with any industry in today’s business times, the history of that industry is important to understand the direction it may move in the future.   Federal government travel and understanding the evolution of government travel planning is essential not only for federal travelers but those who plan travel for each specific entity of the federal government.  As we move into the future, all of the aspects of federal travel and the unique needs of travelers and their specific branch of the federal government must be studied, applied and followed accordingly. Government travel is regulated by numerous laws and regulations.  Understanding the laws and rules that apply to government employee travel and each branch they are employed by is essential to doing business...

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Selling the Intangibles

»Posted by on Dec 30, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, History and Overview, Hotels, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Tom Seaver (Major League Baseball Hall of Famer) once said, “The concentration and dedication to the intangibles are the deciding factors between who won and who lost.”  I firmly believe this statement is profoundly accurate, and I believe it’s applicable to several aspects of business, personal accomplishments and other areas of life.  Furthermore, I strongly believe the intangibles are particularly relevant when in comes to soliciting the U.S. Federal Government. As Director of National Sales for Carlson Hotels Worldwide, my subject matter expertise is hotels.  I feel some of the points made in this document could perhaps be the most valuable contribution I have given to my fellow SGTP affiliates.  As a result, the strategies outlined in this...

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ETS and Culture Change

»Posted by on Dec 23, 2014 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

When the ETS became mandatory at our agency, we found that there were several unpleasant surprises that had been lurking under the safety of our diffused paper processes.  A definite advantage of the ETS is that it made it much more difficult for various offices to operate their fiefdoms outside of the internal regulations and policies, and in some cases even appropriation law.  Where there was no political will to correct such violations, the ETS provided  an effective mechanism for bringing all parts of the organization into compliance. When we were in the initial pilot format, and the problems became more acute and obvious shortly after we required mandatory use of the system agency-side, we discovered several problems in our internal practices.  Many...

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Government Travel — Behind the Scenes

»Posted by on Dec 20, 2014 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

As the world turns, so has government travel.  In the beginning, completing travel documents meant using a typewriter and typing a paper form that had several carbon pages.  This form was mailed to various offices to be approved and ended up in the travel office to be processed.  In today’s world, government travel orders have evolved to a complete automation process.  The introduction of the electronic travel systems created an end-to-end travel service to connect travel authorizations, reservations and voucher processing. Today, the traveler uses an electronic travel system to complete the itinerary with dates and locations of the travel.  He also makes his reservations including any airline, train, rental car, and lodging.  He adds in any expenses...

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Transparency in Federal Travel

»Posted by on Dec 8, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

With the U.S. national deficit at its highest, Federal agencies are being tasked to reduce spending at all levels, including Federal travel budgets.  A presidential advisory team recommended a $400 million reduction in the Federal travel budget by 2015.  Federal travel spending is being more closely scrutinized by Congress, the media, and the general public than ever before.  The media and others are sponsoring websites such as junketsleuth.com in order to gather and present Government travel spend data to the public. With all of this attention focused on the Government’s travel spend, agencies are required by regulation to provide requesters with any information they may request (with a few exceptions) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) or under...

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Travel Planning

»Posted by on Dec 6, 2014 in Business Practices, Rental Cars, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Travel planning is one of the most overlooked aspects of the travel process.  No matter what level of travel you are doing this seems to be the area that goes unchecked and can cause the most problems for the traveler. When traveling on temporary duty within the Continental United States (CONUS) your planning can be less extensive compared to the necessary planning for traveling Outside Continental United States (OCONUS). There are basics that do apply to both types of travel, which will now be discussed. In order to make your home more secure, it is important to suspend any newspaper delivery as a large number of papers on your porch alerts people that you are not home. It is also a good idea to have the post office hold your mail. If you have lawn care to...

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Central Contracting Registration

»Posted by on Dec 5, 2014 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Hotels, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

On October 1, 2003 in order for any supplier to be awarded federal government contract it became necessary to be registered on the Central Contractor Registration (CCR) Database.  When this directive was mandated, our national sales team took the initiative to educate our hotel community and assisted them in completing this registration process. Registration on the CCR needs to occur once per year to maintain an active status.  Because having an active CCR standing is now and “absolute” in terms of doing business with the federal government, we have consistently observed that more contracting officers, meeting planners, third parties and other business drivers are insisting on having this information upfront in the solicitation process. Recently, we have...

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The Sabre Global Distribution System within our e-Travel System

»Posted by on Dec 3, 2014 in Airlines, Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems | 0 comments

Our E Travel System uses the Sabre Global Distribution System as an integral part of the overall travel system. The GDS is a legacy data based system that is used by all travel suppliers such as airlines, hotels and rental car vendors to automatically book travel. The GDS is separate from the commercial internet booking sites, although some booking sites will use GDS information to offer information to their users and to assist with bookings. Not all airlines and hotels use a Global Distribution System as the GDS charges travel vendors to display inventories. If a supplier uses a GDS, it is the airline carrier, hotel, or rental car company’s responsibility to keep the GDS updated with current information. In some instances some small airlines do not use the GDS...

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The Importance of Understanding the Master Contract

»Posted by on Nov 30, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Travel Management Centers, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Civilian agencies have placed task orders under the GSA Schedule for their TMCs but, in my experience,  they may often lack an understanding of exactly what is covered in the TMC Master Contract.  This puts agencies at a severe disadvantage when questions do arise since the an agency’s acquisition personnel usually have no familiarity with government travel issues. It has been my experience that acquisition personnel are also not familiar with the details of the Master Contract when they place the Task Order for the agency.  The Task Order is not a complete contract and it does not have many of the specifics that are in the Master Contract.  And of course, the travel teams at various agencies are most familiar only with their own negotiated Task...

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Benefits of Travel Charge Card Requirement

»Posted by on Nov 29, 2014 in Business Practices, Industry Postings, Payment Methods | 0 comments

On January 27, 1998, Public Law 105-264 mandated the use of a government furnished travel charge card and the implementations regulations were later published in the Federal Register, July 16, 1999. The FTR was effective May 1, 2000. In support of this activity, Public Law 105-264 mandated the reimbursement of travel expenses by agencies to its employees within 30 days. Not only have the government and its travelers benefited from this law, but the TMC/CTOs have benefited as well. The greatest benefit is that the TMC/CTO could process payments for travel services fees much more rapidly. This also speeds up the processing time for tickets and reservations of government employees if they are in a rush to have a ticket issued. The TMC/CTO receives the payment...

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Travel Policy and Compliance

»Posted by on Nov 11, 2014 in Business Practices | 0 comments

The agency that I work for, in addition to its mission, provides franchise services to various Government agencies.  Our Travel Services Division services over 30 of those customer agencies by providing a Travel Help Desk to assist travelers with navigating the E-Gov Travel System (ETS) , travel policy guidance and training, travel voucher payment processing, post-payment travel voucher audits, centrally billed account reconciliation, travel card management, as well as relocation services. During our latest reorganization, our Division formed a Policy And Compliance Team (PAC Team) consisting of six members with varied areas of expertise.  The main functions of this team are travel policy guidance/training, post-payment travel voucher audits, ETS and travel...

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Procurement and Management, the Federal Travel Disconnect

»Posted by on Nov 7, 2014 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

When considering travel programs, program management and procurement are both essential.  Once travel is procured, the role of the program manager is to focus on getting the maximum value from any and all negotiated agreements through careful follow up, tracking, and compliance monitoring. In turn, suppliers are more inclined to offer better deals if they believe the corporate client closely tracks usage, trains travelers, and communicates policy in ways that lead to significantly higher compliance levels.  It is the combination of procurement and program management that leads to effective overall travel programs.  In this paper I explore and assess the federal government’s approach to procurement and program management, and offer recommendations to...

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Suggestions for Reduced Budgets

»Posted by on Oct 25, 2014 in Business Practices, Government Traveler Comments, Industry Postings | 0 comments

Government agencies are faced with reduced budgets in recent years due to the economy.  At our agency, employees have been asked to submit suggestions to improve processes and save money during this time of limited resources.   Several suggestions have been submitted that relate to government travel.  One suggestion that was submitted was that the agency should require travelers to park their privately owned vehicles (POVs) in airport economy lots rather than daily parking lots when they are on TDY.  In the Washington DC area, the current price for parking at Dulles Airport is:  $36 maximum for 24 hours at an hourly parking lot; $17 maximum for 24 hours at a daily parking lot; and $10 maximum for 24 hours at an economy parking lot. While the regulations do...

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FedRooms

»Posted by on Oct 23, 2014 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Hotels | 0 comments

FedRooms is a government-sponsored lodging program designed for the federal traveler.  FedRooms negotiates hotel rates for those areas where government travelers need to stay while performing official government business.  This program provides a substantial savings to the government because rates are at or below per diem, no hidden costs or penalties are associated to the rate, travelers are not charged for early check-out, and travelers can cancel a reservation until 4:00 pm on the day of arrival without incurring a penalty. For the convenience of travelers, FedRooms offers a website which offers helpful information.  There’s a convenient search page for travelers to easily find a FedRooms hotel.  This site also offers an overview of the FedRooms...

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Charge Card Fraud, Misuse, and Abuse

»Posted by on Oct 19, 2014 in Business Practices, Industry Postings, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Fraud can be defined as a deliberate deception practiced with the motive of securing unfair or unlawful gain.  This would be an attempt, by someone other than the cardholder, to complete a transaction that is not part of official government business and applying that transaction on your government travel charge card.  You should take all necessary steps to protect your card and yourself.  Below are a few tips to keep your government travel charge card from fraud. Keep your government travel charge card in sight at all times and exposed no longer than necessary.  Skimming of a charge card occurs when someone to whom you have given your charge card for payment (such as a cashier or waitperson) swipes the card into a portable electronic device, gathering all the...

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How To Ensure a Seamless Car Rental When Traveling for Business

»Posted by on Oct 13, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Rental Cars, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

There are many options available to employees when purchasing travel.  Most travelers are aware of policies and procedures, however, vendors may not be aware of certain restrictions and will try to upsell or upgrade amenities to our employees.   When this is accepted by the traveler, they run into cost reimbursable issues when filing expense reports. As an example, car rental companies will try to upsell a traveler by offering additional insurances, GPS systems, larger vehicles, sporty or hybrid models.  All of which are not reimbursed by our organization.  Also, a traveler may not realize they are being charged an additional amount for the vehicle being offered if it happens to be a larger vehicle. What we’ve done to alleviate all the backend hassles of...

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Data Collection and the Importance of Mandates

»Posted by on Oct 12, 2014 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

One way to measure the cost savings is through reporting from the TMC.  The collection of data will break down air, car, hotel and credit card spend with Ad Hoc reporting capabilities.  However, a non-mandated travel program makes it difficult to ensure cost savings to the organization. Reporting to Senior Management should reflect true costs associated with your program, unfortunately, as noted, all data may not be captured.   It is important for management to realize the benefits of mandating the use of the TMC and preferred vendors to better leverage discounts for the organization. Some of our greatest savings are obtained by mandating hotel bookings through our program.  As an example, we used to capture 50% of bookings through our on-line booking tool or...

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Ethics

»Posted by on Oct 10, 2014 in Business Practices | 0 comments

Government employees are held to the highest level of ethical behavior, especially when it comes to spending taxpayer money.  While government travel represents only a small percentage of government spending, it is highly visible.  There are numerous news stories of government officials using taxpayer money to fund personal vacations or lavish accommodations under the guise of official government business.  There should be more oversight in place to ensure that government employees do not engage in fraud, waste or abuse regarding government travel. High ethical standards and consistent enforcement of travel policies are needed to avoid even a perception of inappropriate activity. My office travels frequently in order to accomplish our mission objectives.  In...

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Payment Methods

»Posted by on Oct 8, 2014 in Business Practices, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Late November of this year the Government established a new SmartPay program, which is a primary method of payment for travel.  This new program GSA SmartPay 2, is accompanied with various improvements, enhancements, benefits, and protection for the government agencies and its travelers. The Government partnered with several contractors (financial agencies) to take on this new endeavor. Some of these financial agencies were part of the first SmartPay program and one of its major partners, Bank of America, failed to submit a proposal to continue business with the government. While reading this particular section I was curious of the reason/s why Bank of America decided to depart from this enormous program. Some of the most important improvements established for...

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Smart-pay Program/Data Mining

»Posted by on Sep 27, 2014 in Business Practices | 0 comments

The federal government has always captured every item and stored in one place or another; more than likely down the road from the now that information will be used and will serve as a vital piece of information.  I served as the Transportation Specialist with the Peace Corps Headquarters here in Washington, DC for more than five years.  I remember having American Express as our travel card.  Each month, a box of reports would be delivered and we would spend hours manually going through each activity of the travelers’ card, checking for misuse and delinquency.  From someone who remembers the Diner’s Club card, I must say I am very impressed, excited and happy that both the IBA and CBA processes have come a long way.  With the way technology is today, I am...

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First and Business Class Flights

»Posted by on Sep 3, 2014 in Airlines, Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

In September of 2007, GAO report GAO-07-1268 found that 67 percent of all first and business class flights by Government employees were not properly justified or authorized. This was somewhat surprising to me as I thought it well known to most employees that first class and business travel are not permitted except in very limited circumstances. The Code of Federal Regulations, at 41 C.F.R § 301-10.123 states as follows: § 301-10.123 When may I use first-class airline accommodations? You may use first-class airline accommodations only when your agency specifically authorizes/approves your use of such accommodations, for the reasons given under paragraphs (a) through (d) of this section. (a)  No coach or business-class accommodations are reasonably available....

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The Hotel and Motel Fire Safety Act of 1990

»Posted by on Sep 2, 2014 in Business Practices, Hotels, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Public Law 101-391, also known as The Hotel and Motel Fire Safety Act, requires federal employees to stay in fire-safe lodging facilities.  This is an Act of Congress that was signed by President George H. W. Bush on September 25, 1990.  The main purpose of this Act is to save lives. To be considered fire-safe, lodging facilities must have: hard-wired, single-station smoke detectors in each guestroom in accordance with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standard 72; and an automatic sprinkler system, with a sprinkler head in each guest room in compliance with NFPA standards 13 or 13R. Properties three stories or lower in height are exempt from the sprinkler requirement. Over 400 Americans died in hotel fires in the 1970s and 1980s.  Later...

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Roles and Responsibilities in Travel Management

»Posted by on Aug 25, 2014 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Not long after graduating college, I became a travel specialist. At the time I saw it as just a stepping stone to my career that would eventually lead me to a job more closely related to my major.  I now realize that when I started I had no idea how large the travel field was, and all of the parts involved.  I thought it was simply learning how to use the ETS system and being able to read a few regulations, with no regards to the other pieces involved.  It takes a great deal of cooperation from a number of individuals, teams and offices to effectively manage a Government travel management program.  These different components work together in varying degrees.  Some may not work directly at all, yet they indirectly have an affect on the work of others.  These...

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Government Travel Management: A Summary

»Posted by on Aug 12, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems, History and Overview, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Background: In the old days and before the 1978 Airlines Deregulation Act, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) used to decide the fares between any two cities. They decided which airline flew from/to cities and how much they should charge. Well, the 1978Airline Deregulation Act changed the dynamics and working ways of the airline industry. It allowed airlines to decide where to fly and how much they can charge. Competition was the name of the game. What was the government reaction to the deregulation act? In 1980, the government using the sheer volume of business it controls was able to negotiate and establish “government fares or CITY PAIR PROGRAM”. “Fly America Act” requires the use of US flag carriers or US Code Share flights. These fares were to become...

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FTR Workshop

»Posted by on Aug 10, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, History and Overview, Payment Methods | 0 comments

In January of this year I had the privileged opportunity to attend a FTR Workshop, which was hosted by the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Department of Defense (DOD). GSA & DOD collaboratively enlisted the help of an outside contractor to assist with the task of researching the feasibility of creating a streamlined and updated Federal Travel Regulation draft. Any new draft of the FTR would need to be approved by various high-level government entities, including OMB, and the US Congress on Capitol Hill. During the FTR workshop, the brainstorming sessions became very interesting, as we discussed various possible directions we could take with regards to the FTR. One of the options mentioned (and the most favorable) was to eliminate a lot of the...

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Airlines- _CA Fares

»Posted by on Aug 5, 2014 in Airlines, Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, Payment Methods | 0 comments

One of the most misunderstood and under advertised benefit to Government travelers is the _CA fare. This is the capacity-controlled coach class fare mentioned in Section 2B Airlines. During regular training classes on our E-Gov Travel System, I continue to be astonished at the misperception and fear of choosing these _CA fares. These fares are still fully refundable, fully changeable; but they are not last-seat availability. If travelers can make their arrangements far enough in advance, sometimes airlines will offer a certain number of seats at the lower _CA pricing. This can save an office $20.00, $40.00, even hundreds of dollars per leg off the full YCA fare. Travelers misunderstand the capacity limit to mean that they either will not get a seat on the aircraft...

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Government Travel & Best Practices

»Posted by on Jul 26, 2014 in Business Practices, History and Overview | 0 comments

The various points in this section were not only concise conclusions to the topic of government travel but this section also included a brief history of the travel industry. As one would expect, the changes to move into an electronic travel system were uncomfortable in the beginning for many. Now that time has passed, the systems are in place, and the ideal functions have been achieved, government travel management personnel have an easier time in the day-to-day operations. One positive aspect of working through all the changes is that there is now an extensive resource of training available to help to keep professionals and government financial managers current. All the work and training is for one end result – to ensure the traveler receives approval for a...

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RFPs In the Hotel Industry

»Posted by on Jul 18, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Hotels | 0 comments

In the hotel industry I have seen a RFP from a government contractor, trying to secure the government bid but also trying to save their company money for hotel stays, since most of the time they will be coming in and staying weekly or even monthly. When they send out RFP’s then tend to send to several different hotels or even upload it to a RFP process center, where your company can go online and bid on the contracts with the other hoteliers. The contractor is not just looking to better a price but what is offered with that price. “More for the money. Also it states certain items that are required within the RFP. We have many steps for this process. We are signed up with the NECO Navy website that sends daily procurements that have to be filled out by noon and...

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Travel Budget Savings

»Posted by on Jul 15, 2014 in Airlines, Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Hotels, Rental Cars | 0 comments

The Bureau of the Public Debt performs reimbursable administrative services to other Government agencies.  Our office administers travel services that include GovTrip E-Travel services and travel policy.  In the current economic climate with all the focus on cost savings and reduced budgets, saving travel dollars is taking center stage. Agencies are faced with reduced funding for travel and using video conferencing wherever feasible. The Government is tracking the ‘carbon footprint’ of their trips and setting targets for reductions.  This stemmed from a Presidential Executive Order last year and has been highly visible since reporting began. Also centralizing reporting for adherence to Federal and agency travel policies is appearing with the new GSA...

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Budget Restraints: “To Travel or Not to Travel; that is the Question”

»Posted by on Jul 12, 2014 in Business Practices | 0 comments

All over the United States, Americans are discussing the issue of whether the government is spending too much money.   Everyone can agree that there are definitely items in the budget that can be eliminated.  There are also areas that need a major overhaul.  But regardless of the debt situation that needs to be addressed in our country, government agencies are being affected with budget restraints now.  With budgets on hold or declining, agencies must begin to do more with less.  They try to implement the necessary cuts to stay within budget but also to ensure that the work continues to be completed without issues or delays. One area where agencies seem to be able to cut down their budgets is on travel expenses.  With technology advancing every day, a...

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Why Federal Travelers Should Not Use a Commercial Internet Site to Book Reservations

»Posted by on Jul 10, 2014 in Business Practices | 0 comments

The prudent person rule in the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) requires travelers to take the same care in incurring travel expenses as they would if they were traveling on personal business.  The FTR mandates the use of the electronic travel system (ETS) for travel reservations and the use of city pair fares for flights.  However, it should be noted that there is a provision within the FTR which allows the traveler an approved exception to either one of these mandates. The City Pair Program (CPP) which was developed by the General Services Administration (GSA) to provide discounted air transportation services to Federal Government travelers with an average savings of 60-69% below commercial air fares.  The CPP is projected to save the Federal Government...

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The Travel Industry and the Government

»Posted by on Jul 10, 2014 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, History and Overview | 0 comments

As the government spends about 2.5 billion annually on business employee travel expenses, the travel industry and the government have created a well- rounded partnership. This partnership explains in depth the understanding of the contracting requirements, acquisition rules and travel regulations. Communication on this information is essential between the two partners. The travel industry initiated different methods in order for government employees to have a thorough understanding of the travel industry and its regulations, etc. These methods were presented to the employees by means of conferences and educational sessions. These educational events are very informative for people to learn and expand their knowledge inn this industry. Educational conferences are...

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Approving Official’s Responsibilities

»Posted by on Jul 5, 2014 in Business Practices, Industry Postings, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 0 comments

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...

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Utilizing SGTP Resources

»Posted by on Jun 28, 2014 in Airlines, Business Practices, History and Overview, Hotels, Rental Cars, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

Overview:  The largest membership base within SGTP are smaller companies such as travel agencies, individual hotels, and or other industry suppliers that are currently or looking to enter or increase sales revenue within the government travel sector. Challenge: To communicate effectively with our membership in a two way dialogue of the SGTP resources and have them utilize them to better understand the government travel marketplace.  And to assist in creating developing increased sales for their organization in his $20 billion annual spend by arena. Issue: New members are continuously joining SGTP on a year round basis.  And though we would like all to be successful immediately with positive results we are aware of the lengthy process, time commitment and...

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The Responsibilities of the Approving Official

»Posted by on Jun 25, 2014 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The approving official has a very important role in the processing of travel requests.  Approving officials need to complete training on their eGov Travel application. Many agencies offer classroom or online training. Approving officials are setup in routing lists in the eGov Travel application.  There is often more than one approving official in a routing list to allow for unavailability.  The approving official can be an administrator, part of the finance office or required for specific agency business rules.  When a document is routed to the approving official it is their responsibility to review the document in a timely manner. The review of the authorization must be timely by the approving official to allow the traveler to confirm the reservations and...

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Where to Draw the Line as an Authorizing Official

»Posted by on Jun 21, 2014 in Business Practices, Government Traveler Comments | 0 comments

As an authorizing official for my agency, there is so much I can say on what is right and wrong. A question I have for you is where do you need to draw the line with travel expenses? Yes, we are suppose to stick to the rules, but how about the people who expect you to break them and get you into trouble for their own selfish reasons… or should I say their own lazy ways. For example, parking at valet parking versus long term parking… In the name of I didn’t know… or having the person dropping the off park at the daily parking just to talk them in… and you are suppose to pay for the hourly parking in addition to mileage for the drop off? Seriously, I say! I believe in treating people fair and not matter what level you are the rules are the rules. The FTR...

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The Travel Process

»Posted by on Jun 16, 2014 in Business Practices, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The travel process can be a very complicated process without the proper training. The Bureau of the Public Debt offers training for all agencies in which we perform travel for. Many people are involved each time an individual goes on travel. Everyone involved has a specific duty to perform in order to make the travel process run smoothly. The following is the normal process an individual would follow when traveling for the government. The first step of the travel process is being asked to perform travel. Whatever the need is for the travel, the authorization to travel must be approved by management. Once management has approved the need for travel, they may give specific limitations, exceptions, approvals that pertain to the travel at hand. This information will...

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FAR Part 301-52

»Posted by on Jun 10, 2014 in Business Practices, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

In reviewing FAR Part 301-52, which was covered by this chapter, I was interested to find out about the late payment fees required of the Government when a filed voucher is not paid within 30 days. According to this FAR provision, when the Government fails to meet the requisite deadline, it becomes liable for a Prompt Payment Act payment which must be equal to or in excess of what the employee may be charged by the credit card company, or where the employee pays the bill, what he or she would have been charged. Interestingly enough, the language concerning the tax consequences of these payments is far from clear. In this regard, §301-52.22 notes that the payment is not reported as wages, but rather, is “in the nature of interest.” The section goes on...

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Educating Travelers on the City Pair Program

»Posted by on Jun 1, 2014 in Airlines, Business Practices | 0 comments

The City Pair Program (CPP) is a mandatory program administered by the General Services Administration (GSA) and is available to all government travelers.  This program offers competitive air fares at a significantly reduced price.  Along with the reduced price, there are also other benefits such as: Tickets are fully refundable Last seat availability No advance purchase requirement No blackout periods No penalties No cancellation fees While the CPP has been in existence since 1980, many travelers were not aware of the program until recent years.  Once agencies started implementing an E-Gov Travel System (ETS), travelers could see a variety of flights, some were city pair flights and some were not.  Prior to this time, the traveler just picked up the phone,...

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FTR: The Blueprint for the Prudent Traveler

»Posted by on May 30, 2014 in Business Practices, Government Traveler Comments, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Working in the travel arena for several years, I have sampled my share of travel vouchers for compliance to the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR). I have seen many vouchers that I felt was just following the public’s perception of government, wasteful spending. I am not required to travel often, but when I do, I do everything within my power to spend as little as possible. I guess you can say I am the “prudent” traveler, but also a taxpayer. I do not look at travel as a way to make a few extra dollars. Unfortunately, I think a lot of individuals take advantage of travel as a way to gain “free money” The FTR is the rules listing the travel guidelines, but I also think they are the reason so many people within government look at travel...

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Cardholder Statement into Travel Voucher, Can The Two Be Joined?

»Posted by on May 30, 2014 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Is there a more efficient way for the travel charge cardholder to track charges and make payments or for agencies to monitor misuse of the individually billed travel charge card? The individually billed travel (IBT) charge card is issued to individuals to be used for approved official government travel expenses.   Expenses that must be charged to the card include common carrier charges such as airfare or train, lodging facilities, and rental car.  When practical, the card can be and should be used for meals, parking, tolls, taxi fares, and other miscellaneous allowable travel expenses.  When necessary, the card can be used for cash advances for those out of pocket expenses that are more convenient to pay with cash.  While the government travel card becomes...

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Approving Official Responsibilities

»Posted by on May 25, 2014 in Business Practices | 0 comments

An approving official is an employee with the authority to approve or direct travel for official government business.  The approving official is included in the routing lists in the ets.  They are sometimes an administrator or part of the finance office.  There are often more than one or two to provide for unavailability.  The approving official must be knowledgeable of the federal travel regulations (ftr) and any other agency specific policy.  Some of the roles of an approving official are that the  approving official must determine if the travel is essential to the agency mission, ensure adequate funds are available prior to authorizing travel, make sure that the mode of transportation selected in the authorization is most advantageous to the...

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E-Verify and the Travel Industry

»Posted by on May 19, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, Hotels, Travel Management Centers, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

On November 14, 2008, the General Services Administration (GSA), the Department of Defense (DOD), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) issued a final rule (73 FR 67651), amending 48 CFR Parts 2, 22, and 52, to change the rules on Employment Eligibility Verification.  These new rules require Government contractors to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Government to use the Federal E-Verify system to confirm the immigration status of employees working on Government contracts performed within the United States.  Prior to the effective date of the new regulation, January 15, 2009, the use of the E-Verify system was voluntary. Government contractors, as well as businesses in general, have long been obligated to check...

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Communication is Key

»Posted by on May 16, 2014 in Business Practices, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

With the invention of each new tool comes an additional problem.  When the eTravel systems were developed, they were meant to make things easier on all involved in the government travel process.  In most ways, they are successful.  The one area that is key to making the system work is keeping everyone informed (both internal staff and customers).  I’ve found through my experience that no matter how much you try, you can never give out too much information to the travelers.  If there are any problems with the system, it’s better to inform the traveler before they find it on their own.  If they’re trying to do something and come across the issue then they tend to get a little more worked up.  If they are aware of the problem before they run...

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Why Travel Bans Won’t Prevent a Flu Pandemic

»Posted by on May 11, 2014 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

To see this whitepaper, please click on the link below: http://www.cgtp.net/documents/travelpandemic.pdf

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The Government Hotel Program

»Posted by on May 5, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Hotels, Payment Methods | 0 comments

The government has implemented an excellent hotel program providing great benefits to its agencies while lowering cost to provide the best services to its travelers. Hotels have contracted with the government per diem rates, different types of properties, special amenities and charge cards, special negotiation rates and specialized lodging programs. The travelers have access to great hotels, meeting their needs and beyond. In addition to the great hotel services and amenities the travelers are provided with a convenient payment charge card and/or direct billing to their federal agency. This helps eliminate out of pocket payment.  This is a great advantage as many other public or private companies fail to provide these services to its employees.  For example, I...

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City Pair Fares and GSA Statistics

»Posted by on Apr 26, 2014 in Airlines, Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems | 1 comment

There is a statistic cited in the training materials that I find interesting, which is that City Pair air fares save 50 – 70% off unrestricted coach fares. I have seen a similar measure of 72% savings off unrestricted coach fares published directly by GSA. This measure raises two questions: 1)    What data did GSA use to determine this measure and when was the analysis conducted? 2)     Is a better measure of program savings available? Section 2a discusses yield management tools and how airfare prices change continuously. To accurately measure savings off unrestricted coach fares, GSA would need a database of unrestricted coach fares that were purchased at the same their traveler purchased the ticket to the same destination. A second option would be to...

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Travel Purpose Identifiers

»Posted by on Apr 14, 2014 in Business Practices, History and Overview, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Federal Government spending is a major topic in the news these days.  Managing resources efficiently and responsibly is among the federal financial manager top priorities. Congressional reporting requirements ensure agencies’ account for their spending activity in fulfillment of their missions.   Focus is frequently on an agency’s travel program.  What types of travel does an agency perform using federal funds?  Is the type of travel and cost necessary to accomplish the agency’s mission?  To answer these questions the federal government needs standardized reporting criteria for all its agencies. In the mid-1970s, the federal government implemented the use of travel purpose identifiers to categorize the types of travel conducted by its...

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Electronic Travel Systems

»Posted by on Apr 3, 2014 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

E-Gov Travel Systems have emerged over the past decade as part of the President’s Management Agenda. The idea of automating a previously paper intensive process naturally sounds like a smart idea. The difficulties begin starting with the change management process. It is a huge learning curve to overcome when travelers are used to the old paper process, possibly still using form fillers and looking up per diem rates; then switching to an electronic paperless process. You have to get buy in from every level of the organization to achieve a successful transition. Involvement of the core team of those bureaus and offices affected by the transformation is also critical from the very beginning of the process. Another difficulty is with only 3 vendors to choose from,...

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E-Gov Travel Partnerships

»Posted by on Mar 22, 2014 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

E-Gov Travel is a Government-wide initiative that is mandated by the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) for all federal travelers and is one of 24 E-Gov initiatives outlined in the President’s Management Agenda (PMA). The E-Gov Travel vision is to deliver a unified, simplified service that delivers a cost-effective travel experience, supports excellent management and results in superior customer satisfaction. The E-Gov Travel goals are defined as follows: develop a government-wide, web based, world-class travel management service; establish a cost model that reduces or eliminates capital investment and minimizes total cost per transaction for the government; and create a policy environment based on the use of best travel management policies. The E-Gov Travel...

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The FAR and How It Came About Where It Went

»Posted by on Mar 13, 2014 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, History and Overview, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

To understand how the FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulations) came into being you have to remember how our country lived in its earlier years. Those who ran the country were predominately plantation owners, small manufacturers or were involved in shipping. When they needed to buy something they simply went to the source and made the purchase. They may or may not have gotten pricing from several sources, but knew where their dollar went the furthest. Now introduce a new element, the Federal Government Employee. Their basic method of being paid and running an administration was based on the British Colonial model which resembled the British Federal Systems, but with a few changes. Remember that initially being sent to “The Colonies” was not always a reward and...

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Educating the Traveler

»Posted by on Mar 5, 2014 in Business Practices, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

But why can’t I just buy the ticket on the internet? Do I need to buy the additional insurance? What hotels offer per-diem rates in this city? These are just some of the questions we travel managers face on a daily basis. Getting the best value in travel services is a primary function of our job, but more importantly it is to educate the travelers on how to use the travel program.    We sometimes forget that some travelers may only travel once a year on official business and have either forgotten or have never used the rules and procedures to travel. Developing a web page with frequently asked questions is one great way to educate.  When I first took over travel management for the State nine years ago, my phone would constantly ring with the same...

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Business Practices

»Posted by on Feb 25, 2014 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

The travel manager role, as this chapter mentions, does require great talent in multi-tasking. During implementation, a good project plan is vital to make sure all tasks are accomplished. The travel manager has to ensure all TMC profiles are loaded, lines of accounting are loaded, and that the routing chains for all travelers are established. Charge card information has to be loaded and correct so that tickets are issued timely as a self-service transaction. An organization with thousands of travelers causes this type of workload to grow exponentially. Normally, the travel manager is not only responsible for all the E-Gov Travel tasks, but has to provide policy guidance as well. Although the E-Gov Travel system has automated many aspects of the travel document...

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Credit Cards – Getting A Bad Rap?

»Posted by on Feb 22, 2014 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The GSA website provides an interesting perspective on the issue of the misuse of Government Smartpay credit cards. We have all seen stories about Government employees using Smartpay cards to make outrageous purchases, but are these articles the tip of an iceberg of misuse or an abberation? A reading of various FAQs on the site suggests that the credit cards have received a bad rap not because they are widely misused, but because the system readily discloses such misuse, exposing those who try to use the cards for improper purposes. GSA contends that misuse accounts for only a very small percentage of overall use. According to GSA, banks under contract to the Smartpay program must provide an assortment of protections against misuse. Under the program agencies may...

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Going, Going, Gone — Going Green

»Posted by on Feb 17, 2014 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Government Traveler Comments, History and Overview, Industry Postings, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 0 comments

Have you completed a GSA Form 87, SF 1012, or SF1164 lately? If you have traveled for the federal government then you have used these forms for obtaining authorization and reimbursement for official government travel. Even though these forms are still valid today, the forms numbers themselves are not nearly as recallable or visible due to the use of electronic travel systems. Several laws and initiatives over the past decades have been put in place to move the federal government toward a paperless and green environment. All of these initiatives are focused on a common goal of saving the environment and reducing government spending – saving taxpayer dollars – while securing and protecting information. The Government Paperwork Elimination Act (GPEA)...

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What Is IATA?

»Posted by on Jan 30, 2014 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Global Distribution Systems, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

What does having an IATA mean? Do you need one to book a reservation on your own? Do I need to use the DTS to book my reservation? What amenities come with my room? It is not easy to get an IATA number but IATA numbers are basically the Travel agent’s ID number; this is also used to identify individual travel companies so that they will receive a commission check once the person has traveled to the destination.  When you put the IATA number in, it’s not for the discount…it’s so the companies know which travel agent to pay the commission to. To get the travel agency rate, you generally need to get the right rate codes (at least with rental cars & hotels – not sure how airlines interact with the GDS systems since they do not get paid...

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Federal Travel Regulations

»Posted by on Jan 19, 2014 in Business Practices, Government Traveler Comments | 0 comments

There are several resources that are available to both travelers and systems staff that guide and govern the federal government travel process.  One of the most important documents is the Federal Travel Regulations or FTR.  The FTR provides regulations on just about any aspect of travel that you can think of from how reservations are to be made, how they should be paid for and what expenses are allowable on the voucher. The FTR mandates that all reservations should be made using a Travel Management Center.  It also mandates that all reservations are to be paid for with the government travel card.  This means that the traveler isn’t permitted to charge official travel expenses on a personal card.  While there are additional benefits to the traveler by...

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The Limits of SmartPay2

»Posted by on Dec 12, 2013 in Business Practices, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The El Dorado of any Government travel manager is having sufficient access to credit card data so that spend patterns can actually be used for trends analysis and proactive planning, as well as detecting potential fraud.  The GSA SmartPay program has improved considerably since SmartPay1 but despite the vastly improved databases now available from many of the SmartPay2 vendors, the same problem with the accessibility of level three data still plagues SmartPay2. Level three data is the information that indicates what product or service was actually provided by a vendor when a credit card is used.  For the purposes of this discussion, I am referring to the travel card. This information is almost always available in an itemized  fashion to the buyer when she...

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Travel Policy and Compliance

»Posted by on Dec 1, 2013 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, History and Overview, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Travel policy for official Government travel is governed by the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) and those areas within the FTR that require/allow agency-specific policies to be instituted.  While travel policy has always been an integral part of the Federal travel process, travel policy became more visible with the advent of the current generation of E-Gov Travel systems, and continues to be very critical and visible as we progress towards the next generation of these systems. This is mainly due to the automated systems forcing travelers and approvers to be more in compliance with the FTR and agency policy. While a step in the right direction, this also seemed to generate even more travel policy questions and was a key factor in reorganizing our travel support...

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The Department of Defense’s Efforts to Reduce Travel Costs

»Posted by on Nov 29, 2013 in Business Practices, Industry Postings, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

In March 2011, the Secretary of Defense issued a memorandum titled, “Track Four Initiative Decision.” The memorandum mandated that “all DoD travel requests must include justification that alternate means such as, Secure Video Teleconference (SVTC) or other web-based communication, are not sufficiently able to accomplish travel objectives.” The Joint Federal Travel Regulations (JFTR) and the Joint Travel Regulations (JTR) were subsequently updated to include this mandate. The regulations require that all DD 1610 forms, Request for Authorization for TDY Travel of DoD Personnel, and other order formats like the Defense Travel System (DTS), include a statement justifying that alternate methods noted in the memorandum are not sufficient to...

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Accounting for Travel

»Posted by on Nov 27, 2013 in Business Practices, Government Traveler Comments, Hotels, Rental Cars, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Many Federal employees will travel or relocate for their jobs at some point in their career.  Travelers are mostly concerned about staying at a preferred hotel and getting a direct flight and may not realize that every travel authorization and voucher is also an accounting entry. In the accounting world, a travel authorization becomes an accounting document called an obligation and has the same accounting impact as a purchase order for goods or services.  The obligation reserves the estimated amount to ensure funds are available when the traveler submits a voucher for payment.  When the voucher is recorded in the financial system, the obligation is reversed and a payment is made. To determine what “pot of money” the traveler is using, the travel documents...

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ETS Implementation

»Posted by on Nov 21, 2013 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

In 1995 my agency purchased the Gelco Travel Manager software and I worked on transitioning our travelers from a paper based manual system to a fully automated one that was hosted in-house.   Almost 10 years after implementing an electronic travel system, the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) were updated to require all government agencies to migrate to one of three ETS systems hosted by the vendor.  During those 10 years with Travel Manager the Bureau I work for began franchising accounting and travel services and we converted our 30 plus customers from a manual travel process to that of an automated one.  During those years, we supported our customers with training and a robust help desk.  In addition, we had developed a strong travel program that revolved...

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Information Exchange

»Posted by on Nov 6, 2013 in Business Practices, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Getting important information out to employees is one of the biggest challenges corporate travel managers face.  Whether it be email, flyers, bulletins, blogs, banners, newsletters, etc, it is difficult to reach a mass audience at once.  The best way for us to communicate important updates in policy or procedures is through our specialty group of administrative assistants called the Travel Guru’s. I meet with over 80 administrative assistants each month to communicate industry updates, policy reminders and changes, incentive programs and procedures.  Occasssionally, I invite preferred vendors to present to the group to keep them abreast of membership offerings and changes pertaining to industry.  I also invite our employee reimbursements group to review some...

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E-Gov Travel Simplifies Travel Voucher Processing

»Posted by on Oct 19, 2013 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Implementation of E-Gov Travel simplifies the voucher processing. When I began my career in administrative accounting 19 years ago, our agency used the paper-based system for processing travel reimbursements. A traveler submitted a manually prepared travel voucher with original receipts to his/her approving official. The voucher and receipts arrived at the administrative office for payment by internal mail or hand delivery. Prior to issuing a reimbursement to the traveler, the administrative office reviewed the voucher and receipts. Every detail of the trip was analyzed for compliance to the Federal Travel Regulations and any pertinent accounting regulations to assure the claim for reimbursement was proper and valid for payment. Upon validation of the claim a...

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City Pair Program

»Posted by on Oct 12, 2013 in Business Practices | 0 comments

There appears to be some confusion and even debate regarding the fares negotiated and contracted by the United States Government’s City Pair Program.  Many Government travelers do not realize what they are getting for their money, and what total costs are associated with non-contract restricted fares. Many Government travelers compare the ticket price of City Pair contract fares to the ticket price of economy fares that they book for personal travel using internet sites like Orbitz, Expedia, and Travelocity.  While the economy fares many of us use for personal travel have restrictions, penalties/fees for cancellations, and often require advance purchase, this is not the case with the Government’s City Pair contract fares.  City Pair contract fares require...

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Taking Advantage of New Communication Tools

»Posted by on Jul 21, 2013 in Business Practices, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The necessity for each agency’s Travel Manager to communicate with travelers and other stakeholders has never been greater … in large part due to the number and variety of changes taking place in the federal travel marketplace.   A transition from the E-Gov Travel Service (ETS) to E-Gov Travel Service 2 (ETS2) looms on the horizon for nearly all federal civilian agencies.  A bill has been introduced in Congress to cut the federal travel budget by up to 75%.  Federal telepresence centers are springing up all over the country.  Greenhouse gas emissions are being considered when making travel decisions.  Some airlines (notably, American) are threatening to remove their inventory from one or more of the Global Distribution Systems (GDSs).  Some foreign...

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Post-Payment Audit of Travel Payments

»Posted by on Jul 19, 2013 in Business Practices, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Part of our division’s responsibility as the travel financial office is to implement internal audit controls for the E-Gov travel system to insure that travel payments comply with the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) as well as laws and regulations for use of federal funds.  One way we meet this requirement is to perform a random post-payment audit of a sample of all our travel payments. Although the electronic travel processing edit feature reduces the risk of improper payments, we still have an obligation to ensure that the electronic processing is policy compliant.  We audit the entire process of the identified travel transaction including the arrangements for travel accommodation in the authorization, submission of a proper travel voucher, and the...

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Special Services Available from Travel Companies

»Posted by on Jul 8, 2013 in Business Practices, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

With all of us trying to do things ourselves, sometimes what seems like a time saver can actually be time waster. If you use the services of a travel company properly, you find a huge amount of information from someone who is an expert, rather than guessing on our own. To take this to the simplest level, imagine you have just been “asked” to travel to a foreign country for business. Now some destinations may seem exciting, but you need to understand the local rules and what is required of you prior to your travel date. The first thing is to remember that the entire world does not speak English, so choosing where you will stay and how you will travel in that country make a significant difference. You also need to understand what travel documents will be...

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Communication

»Posted by on Jun 23, 2013 in Business Practices | 0 comments

Communication is a key ingredient in any business or aspect of life.  In our agency, one of our biggest assets is our ability to communicate well within our office, with the customers we service, and the communication between us and the vendors we work with on a daily basis.  We focus on high quality customer service.  Our travel helpdesk is staffed with technicians who are very knowledgeable in the E Gov Travel system and the Federal Travel Regulations. Our technicians answer any questions the traveler may have regarding the FTR or questions that pertain to the creation of documents in the E Gov Travel software.  Our customers have access to our helpdesk five days a week within the hours of 6:00am to 6:00pm.  The most common calls are from first time...

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Relationship Building

»Posted by on Jun 21, 2013 in Business Practices, Hotels | 0 comments

We have a particular group that is coming to our hotel for a conference in March.  This group has been booked since the middle of last year and has had to rebook one time already due to a tragedy.  Since we are coming up so close to their new arrival date, I have just found out that in the next two weeks everyone within this group will be making their travel arrangements to make the trip to Gettysburg.  This could greatly affect the arrival and departure dates that we already have in our reservation system.  By them booking their travel plans so close to their arrival date and by us already have been given a rooming list we could potentially be sitting on rooms that we may not be able to resell.  The policy at most properties would be to charge the groups for...

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Line of Accounting Enhancement

»Posted by on May 28, 2013 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, History and Overview | 0 comments

One of the most significant projects I participated on while working with an EGOV Travel application was the planning, design, and development of an update line of accounting module.  This was an eighteen month project in which we worked in conjunction with the EGOV Travel vendor to redesign the line of accounting module.  The enhanced line of accounting  module offered several improvements over the prior module of which the most significant would include enabling travelers to more easily identify and select accounting, provide additional security by limiting accounting available to travelers, and improve the accounting conditional routing options. The prior accounting module housed each line of accounting under a unique accounting label for each...

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Global Distribution Systems — Information Flow

»Posted by on May 28, 2013 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Global Distribution Systems, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Section 2a discusses Global Distribution Systems. Although I am sure that it must exist somewhere, I have not seen a recent diagram that shows the flow of information throughout a travel transaction. By a travel transaction, I am referring to the following components: Vendors (airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, other) GDS Travel Agencies Traveler (or end user) The data flow used to be rather straightforward, in that the vendor supplied data to the GDS, the GDS to the travel Agency, and the Travel Agency to the traveler. However, through technology and financial tightening there are now myriad other methods for securing travel. Those include: Vendor-direct call centers or websites Alternate GDS (ITA, G2, Farelogix, INS) Corporate Travel Departments, On-line...

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Has the Method of Paying for Travel Services Come Full Circle?

»Posted by on May 8, 2013 in Business Practices, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Has the method of paying for travel services come full circle? At issue is how government employees pay for travel expenses while performing their duties. Cash Advances Prior to corporate travel cards, there were travel advances where employees would request a certain dollar amount to pay for expenses while traveling on official state business.  This methodology seemed to work well at the time, but the presence of fraud and abuse always lurked in the background.  There were some control measures put in place to prevent this, and receipts were required to be submitted, along with unused funds being returned.   There were also employee risks involved by sending out an employee with a large amount of cash that could have been easily lost or stolen. Full Credit...

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ETS and the FTR

»Posted by on Apr 24, 2013 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

A major benefit of converting to an E-Gov travel system is that the system enforces travelers to comply with the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR).  The FTR governs what expenses the traveler is allowed to claim and what requirements must be met in order to conduct official travel on behalf of the Government.  An agency may also have a travel policy which is stricter than the FTR.  The E-Gov travel system can also be set up to reflect some of the agency’s requirements in addition to the FTR requirements. Pre-audits have been built into the electronic system, which makes the travelers follow the guidelines. The E-Gov travel system has a built-in reservation module, which allows travelers/document preparers to select their airfare reservations.  Travelers...

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Jiminy Cricket Had It Right

»Posted by on Mar 20, 2013 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, History and Overview | 0 comments

As Director of National Sales for Carlson Hotels Worldwide, on an annual basis I am required to comply with our company’s policies on business ethics.  Our leadership team firmly believes that fostering strong and consistent standards here is paramount in terms of creating a successful and trusting culture based on accountability. I agree with this philosophy.  Furthermore, it reminds me of something one of my mentors taught me about business practice in general – He said, “How you get there is just as important as getting there.”  That concept left a deep impression on me, so on certain occasions I would find myself revisiting that same mentor when faced with difficult decisions.  Consequently, he would always tell me the same thing, “I advise...

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Per Diem Rate Guidelines

»Posted by on Feb 26, 2013 in Business Practices, Global Distribution Systems, Hotels, Payment Methods, Rental Cars | 0 comments

One of the distinct challenges the hotel community continues to encounter are the criteria set for establishing the areas to be surveyed and how the data from Smith Travel is used. The Data used to compile the rate and occupancy information tends to focus on all the area within the city limits, but does not focus on the main areas of where government or business travel is concentrated. A good example is to compare Boston and San Francisco as these two cities for corporate travel rates are rather similar. Boston with seasonal rates of $203-$256 is a concentrated area with a large downtown and does not contain a suburban area containing many hotels. The majority of the hotels within the city limits are located in the downtown area. San Francisco has a similar...

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Prudence or Prudent – How is it applied?

»Posted by on Jan 28, 2013 in Airlines, Business Practices, Government Traveler Comments, Hotels, Industry Postings, Rental Cars, White Papers | 0 comments

For those of us who work for the government and with travel policy, we have heard the words “prudence” or “prudent” many times.  What do these words mean and more importantly, what do they mean to each of us as individuals? Dictionaries give us many definitions for prudence and prudent.  Care, caution, discretion, frugal, responsible, sensible, and thrifty are a few of the definitions for these words.  How are they applied by the government traveler? What does the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) say about being prudent?  FTR 301-10.123 basically states that the prudent person should use the same care in incurring expenses that would be spent on personal travel.  Most individuals use their personal money wisely and try to get the most value from their...

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Must a Federal Employee Prepare a Travel Authorization Prior to Travel?

»Posted by on Jan 26, 2013 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Our agency’s travel office receives inquiries regarding why a travel authorization is required prior to going on official business travel.  In answer to this inquiry here are some reasons why a travel authorization is of benefit for the federal agency as well as being generally required.  According to the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) Chapter 301-2.1: §301-2.1  Must I have authorization to travel? Yes, generally you must have written or electronic authorization prior to incurring any travel expense. If it is not practicable or possible to obtain such authorization prior to travel, your agency may approve a specific authorization for reimbursement of travel expenses after travel is completed. However, written or electronic advance authorization is...

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Business Intelligence/Data Mining “Strategic Travel Management”

»Posted by on Oct 8, 2012 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices | 0 comments

Business intelligence, data mining, reporting all are the key to future best practices of Travel Management whether it is corporate or government travel.  Without data one cannot make strategic decisions, improve efficiencies, and reduce expenses while improving the customer experience. For Government travel this has been a challenge and continues to plague the market sector.  Getting one’s hands around the information is difficult at best and when you finally do receive the information it has been hard to verify the accuracy. Removing obstacles for data to be processed without the invasion of personal information is the key to our future in this business. TRX, Government, and Suppliers need to create a commons set of standards in reporting that provides...

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A Matter of Ethics

»Posted by on Aug 21, 2012 in Airlines, Business Practices, Hotels, Payment Methods, Rental Cars | 0 comments

Government travel represents only a small portion of government spending.  When dealing with taxpayer dollars however, government employees are and should be held highly accountable.  The government traveler should exercise the highest level of ethical behavior to avoid any repercussions that could arise from public perception.  The newspapers and television stations are always anxious to report stories concerning government officials using the taxpayer’s money to fund personal vacations or lavish accommodations stating it was for official government business.  And that, my fellow Americans, is the fleecing of America.  Consistent enforcement of travel policies is needed to ensure waste, fraud, or abuse does not occur and also to avoid even the...

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Post Payment Audit (Sampling) of Travel Vouchers

»Posted by on Aug 7, 2012 in Business Practices, Industry Postings, Payment Methods, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 2 comments

Our division as well as many others, has developed a simple sampling (audit) plan for conducting quality control  reviews in compliance with the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR), the ARC Travel Program Guide, and Government Accountability Office (GAO) Guidelines.  The main objective is to ensure travel and travel payments are in compliance as determined by the FTR.  Our staff will complete a Travel Voucher Statistical Sampling Checklist on each document selected for audit. At the beginning of each month a random selection of documents is made from vouchers paid the previous month.  The Travel Voucher Statistical Sampling Checklist comprised of multiple tests per document is conducted on each randomly selected document.  The Statistical Checklist is comprised...

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“Is there really a savings, or are we headed full circle”

»Posted by on Jul 31, 2012 in Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, Government Traveler Comments, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers, Uncategorized | 0 comments

I can remember years ago, when a federal employee, that was authorized official travel, would receive their travel authorization from the typewriter of the secretary, take that piece of paper to the ticket counter of the in-house TMC and make all of the travel arrangements.  A few days later, you would receive days later a GTR would cover the cost of the ticket and the ticket printer would produce your itinerary, along with your information regarding your trip.  It was nice to see a face, get to know your internal travel agent, as well as  have the hands-on person available there to ask any questions and to make any changes, if necessary.  Today, everything is done by the booking engine, we have become accustomed to booking our travel via our PC’s, pads or...

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E-Tickets

»Posted by on Jul 26, 2012 in Airlines, Business Practices | 0 comments

The sight of travelers frantically searching for their tickets has become rare at airports in recent years. That’s because more people are relying on electronic tickets, or e-tickets, when they fly. E-ticket is now the main method of issuing tickets for the vast majority of airlines. It’s a secure form of ticketing that makes travel plans less cumbersome and more efficient for the traveler. The travel data is all stored electronically in the Global Distribution System (GDS) or the airlines reservation system. Passengers can, at any time, print their e-ticket receipt from the airlines web site. In addition, a passenger with an e-ticket can check in faster by just producing the e-ticket print out and an appropriate ID. E-tickets issued through the E Gov Travel...

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Consolidation of Travel Policies

»Posted by on Jul 20, 2012 in Business Practices, Industry Postings, Travel Professional Resources, White Papers | 0 comments

The volume of information presently available from a variety of web-based sources is immeasurable. With hundreds of millions of websites presently in existence, practically any topic imaginable is likely to yield more search results than the person running the query is capable of processing. For example, a simple query for “US government travel policies” using the Bing search engine yielded approximately 407 million results. The same search on Google yielded 875 million results. Regardless of the mass quantities of direct and indirect results to any given search, there remain gaps of knowledge when it comes to government travel policies. Government travelers and travel vendors presently have the ability to easily access rules and regulations as set forth in...

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Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act of 2009

»Posted by on May 4, 2012 in Business Practices, Payment Methods | 0 comments

Congress enacted the Travel and Transportation Reform Act (TTRA), also known as Public Law 105-264, in 1998.  This Act mandated the use of a government furnished travel charge card. All federal employees were required to use a travel charge card to pay for official government travel expenses.  According to Hatch (2010), the travel cards were intended to reduce travel costs and improve oversight of employee travel expenditures, but audits of the government travel card program at a number of agencies found evidence of waste, fraud, and abuse due to a lack of adequate internal controls (Hatch, 2010, p. 1).  Hatch reported that the dollar volume of travel card transactions increased 103% from $4.39 billion in FY1999 to $8.93 billion in FY2009 (Hatch, p. 1). In...

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Data Collection Under the TRX MIS Contract: Implementation, Deployment, and Strategic Sourcing Issues

»Posted by on Apr 18, 2012 in Business Intel/Data Mining, Business Practices, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems | 0 comments

The GSA (General Services Administration) often enters into City-Pairs negotiations hampered by a relative lack of hard data on Government travel.  Where substantive data has been available it has not been as detailed or as encompassing as the Government requires to effectively support negotiations.  This lack of effective data caused the Travel Program management Office (PMO) of the GSA to conduct an Full and Open competition for a vendor that could provide services to make up for this lack of information.  The solicitation requirement was to obtain the best travel data aggregation and reporting solution that satisfied government requirements at the best value.  A trade-off analysis was performed between technical and cost and past performance to make the...

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Force Majeure

»Posted by on Oct 9, 2011 in Business Practices, Contracting for Travel Services, Hotels | 0 comments

In today’s economic climate, most hoteliers have a strong sense of urgency in doing more business with the U.S. Federal Government. Perhaps one of the most important factors in accomplishing this is having a comprehensive understanding of how government contracting works.  It goes without saying the federal government has its own set of unique processes and rules.  I have found one consistent, absolute condition always surfaces related to government group contracts, which is something called Force Majeure. Force Majeure is a French term which means “greater force.”  Nearly every government contract and/or letter of intent will have a force majeure clause.  This clause excuses an interested party from liability if some unforeseen event beyond the...

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How the Federal Travel Regulations Affect Our Agency

»Posted by on Aug 14, 2011 in Business Practices, History and Overview, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The Federal Travel Regulations are an important part of the work we perform in our office on a daily basis.  We provide other agencies with a full service travel help desk in which our personnel is often asked to quote the FTR and clarify any confusion the government traveler may be experiencing while traveling for business purposes. However, in order to answer more complex questions, we have two policy experts within our office who research issues and respond to the traveler in a timely manner. We also perform post-payment audits of travelers’ vouchers on a monthly basis.  We must ensure that travelers are complying with the FTR in areas in which the E Gov travel system isn’t capable of verifying.  For instance, the FTR requires that a traveler...

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