Electronic Travel Systems

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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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The Future of Government Travel and Customer Service

»Posted by on Oct 31, 2013 in Electronic Travel Systems, Industry Postings, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers, White Papers | 0 comments

The future of government travel and travel planning depends on the successful integration of the Electronic Travel Systems (ETS) with the Travel Management Center (TMC) in order for the government traveler and the government as a whole, to achieve ultimate satisfaction in customer service and price. In 1998, the Defense Travel System (DTS) was developed. The system was designed to provide end-to-end authorization, travel reservations and the voucher filing processes in compliance with the Joint Federal Travel Regulation (JFTR) and, a number of financial systems. The system was designed to accommodate up to 3.5 million DoD military and civilian travelers with distinct travel requirements. In 2002, GSA introduced the ETS for civilian agencies. Like the DTS, it was...

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Rail Reservations

»Posted by on Oct 28, 2013 in Electronic Travel Systems, Government Traveler Comments, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

The number one question that we receive concerning rail reservations is how to identify the type of trains in the eTravel system.  The train number is the key in identifying the type of train selected.  When a traveler requests rail reservations in the eTravel system, the Travel Management Center (TMC) will book a courtesy reservation, which means the traveler will actually have to pay for the ticket at the kiosk.  Unfortunately, the TMC fee associated with rail reservations booked through GovTrip will always be a full service fee.  This isn’t the TMC’s fault but rather falls on Amtrak not allowing reservations to be booked outside of their own system. There are three different types of Amtrak trains.  The Amtrak trains that make the most frequent...

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Authorizations

»Posted by on Oct 27, 2013 in Electronic Travel Systems, Industry Postings, Payment Methods | 0 comments

The travel process starts with an authorization that is booked in our E-Gov Travel Service. Travelers are required to have an authorization from an approving official for a TDY trip. An authorization is entered into the ETS system prior to the trip being taken. There are many individuals that are involved in this process. In order for the travel document to be completed properly, these individuals must work together. The traveler, document preparer, examiners, and approving officials must all perform their roles in the authorization process. When the authorization is created, reservations are made for the traveler. Airfare, lodging, and rental car reservations are made by either the traveler or document preparer. In addition, any other expenses such as...

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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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Group Hotel Reservations—A Challenge for ETS

»Posted by on Oct 11, 2013 in Electronic Travel Systems, Hotels, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

The use of the Fedtraveler online booking engine (OBE) for government travel provides different options regarding mode of travel, hotel reservations and rental car reservations.  The purpose of this paper is to focus on the required use of the hotel OBE for government travel versus the use of a direct or manual process of booking hotel reservations for government travel. For the last 18 months one of my collateral duties has been the first level approving official for government travel for a Region of 26 federal government employees and in that time, I have reviewed and approved dozens of travel plans and expense reports.  The primary focus of the Region I work in is to travel throughout the country one to two weeks out of the month and conduct assessments on...

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Problems with My Agency’s ETS

»Posted by on Sep 24, 2013 in Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

In 2009, my agency transitioned to the mandatory use of an ETS vendor for travel.  I won’t mention the vendor’s name, but I’d like to address some problems I’ve noticed with our particular vendor. One issue that has caused some frustration is the lack of visibility in our ETS.  For managers, this is a particularly frustrating experience.  For example, if one manager approves a traveler’s authorization, another manager cannot view the authorization that was approved.  This becomes a problem when, for example, Manager X approves travel for Mr. Doe since Mr. Doe’s manager was out of the office.  When Mr. Doe’s manager returns to the office, he has no idea what was approved by Manager X unless a hard copy was printed for him.  And creating a bunch...

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SmartPay®2 Transition and the E-Gov Travel Service

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

Over Thanksgiving weekend, 2008, the vast majority of federal civilian agencies executed a “flash cutover” from their existing SmartPay® travel cards to newly-issued SmartPay®2 travel cards.  In order to support this cutover for their 65 agency customers, the E-Gov Travel Service (ETS) contractors had to replace all of the SmartPay® charge card numbers (both Centrally Billed Accounts and Individually Billed Accounts) in approximately 500,000 ETS user profiles with new SmartPay® 2 numbers … all without a significant disruption of service or impact to travelers. The project to accomplish the SmartPay®2 transition for ETS was managed by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).  It began years earlier but took on its greatest momentum during the...

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E-Gov Travel System — What an Improvement

»Posted by on Jul 26, 2013 in Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

The E-Gov Travel program was one of the George W. Bush administration’s electronic government initiatives aimed at improving government cost operations.  The E-Gov Travel System (ETS) was mandated by the government in order to reduce government costs and to hopefully realize a significant cost savings.  The Bush administration also felt the ETS would greatly improve employee productivity. I can remember when preparing the paperwork for government travel was such a frustrating part of my daily responsibilities.  The document was placed in a typewriter (remember those) to be completed.  You could not make a typo error (not even one) or you would have to start over.  There were several carbons attached to this document and it had to be perfect.  If a...

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Benefits of the Electronic Travel Systems (ETS)

»Posted by on Jun 19, 2013 in Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

At a minimum, let’s talk automation with the Electronic Travel System. How about “working smarter NOT harder?” You will think in this day and age of technology where 5 year olds are using computers, that agencies would embrace the ETS… Well, that’s what you will think, but as you can tell from the frustration in my voice, not all agencies have embraced the ETS.  An agency I am familiar with (agency XYZ) is using a system that is so OLD, that it’s a shame to even talk about. Nothing is linked and even though you enter the information in the system, it has to be printed out (talk about going green) and sent through the various chains for approval. After all that is done, there is a totally separate process on the financial systems part. With the...

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Tracking Travel Expenditures

»Posted by on Jun 5, 2013 in Contracting for Travel Services, Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods | 0 comments

From my experience working with the federal government, they still have difficulty tracking their travel expenditures. “The government presently has very limited capability for management information reporting of its travel usage and spend.” This phrase appeared in the statement of objectives for GSA’s Business Travel Intelligence RFP in 2006. Although the government has the foundational tools (ETS/DTS), vendors (TMC/CTO, SmartPay) and processes (FTR) in place, they still are unable to determine how their money is spent to any degree of specificity. One key reason is that, unlike corporate clients who maintain a single travel agency for all transactions*, GSA allows each agency to contract with individual travel agencies. Having various travel agencies...

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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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E Gov Travel – The Transition and Training Process

»Posted by on May 19, 2013 in Airlines, Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, Hotels, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers, Travel Professional Resources | 0 comments

Beginning in September of 2004, our agency began converting our customers from the legacy travel system to the new E Gov Travel system.  With approximately thirty agencies to convert, we completed the transition within a twelve month time-frame.  Even though this schedule was quite intense, we were able to complete this transition successfully due to the cooperation of everyone involved, the organization of a well thought out project plan, and a detailed training plan. For each customer to convert from the legacy system to the new one, there were two people in our agency assigned to lead each team.  We were responsible for performing all of the background maintenance tasks, such as routing lists, the people table, and security groups. We also trained all...

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Travel Document Overview

»Posted by on May 2, 2013 in Electronic Travel Systems, History and Overview, Payment Methods | 0 comments

The travel process is pretty involved and involves many different individuals including the traveler, possibly a document preparer, approving official and the processing staff.  Each person that touches the document has a role in ensuring that the traveler has a successful trip.  This is going to explain the process a travel document follows from the time the traveler is requested to go on travel. Travel authorizations are manually entered by the traveler or a document preparer in the eTravel system prior to taking a trip for the agency.  During the creation of the authorization the reservations are made for air, hotel and rental car.  Any estimated miscellaneous expenses such as parking, taxi or hotel taxes are input so that funds can be reserved in the...

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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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Transition to Smart Pay 2

»Posted by on Mar 12, 2013 in Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

November 30, 2008, marked the beginning of the new Travel Charge Card Program called Smart Pay 2 (SP2).  Federal Government travelers are encouraged to apply for an individual Government charge card in order to pay for their travel expenses.  The previous 10-year contract, also known as Smart Pay 1 (SP1), expired on November 29, 2008.  Various individuals from my agency were extremely involved in the selection of our credit card vendor.  As it turned out, the incumbent charge card vendor was awarded the new 10-year contract. Internally, our credit card team conducted weekly meetings with the individuals from each section who were assigned to the project so that the conversion would be completed accurately and timely.  In addition to working with the credit...

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Customer Conversion to an EGOV Travel System

»Posted by on Jan 29, 2013 in Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

This posting will be a discussion of a method used to help implement a new customer on an EGOV Travel system.  At my agency, Excel spreadsheets are utilized to collect data that is used as the building block determining how information and tables will be setup in the EGOV Travel system.   The information provided on these spreadsheets help ensure that good accurate data is used to build the new EGOV Travel database for the agency.  The spreadsheets also serve as a tool to assist an agency with data cleanup. In order to use the EGOV Travel software, new users go through a one-time self registration process the first time logging onto the EGOV Travel application.  Self registration procedures are provided to the agency’s travelers before going live with...

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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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Using the ETS

»Posted by on Jan 15, 2013 in Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

While the complexity of the ETS system can be intimidating to first-time users, there is a reason behind it.  Many travelers are used to using such systems as Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz for their personal travel needs.  These systems are relatively easy to use and travel can be booked in a short amount of time.  Often, nothing more than the traveler’s personal information, preferences and method of payment are needed in order to book their trip.  In contrast, the ETS can seem rather cumbersome, at times.  In reality, the system itself is not overly complicated, but the information that it has to take into consideration certainly is, as is the checks that the system performs prior to completing the authorization and/or voucher. In addition to...

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GovTrip/Financial System Interface

»Posted by on Jan 11, 2013 in Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

Most of our customers who are traveling for the first time are likely surprised by the amount of information that must be entered into GovTrip.  There is, however, a method to the madness.  Before leaving on a trip, the traveler must submit an authorization.  This is an estimate of the total costs and expenses of the trip, and also includes an itinerary, as well.  The benefits of doing an authorization in GovTrip first is that since GovTrip takes the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) into account, the document preparer and approving official are alerted to any items or expenses that could potentially be in violation of the FTR.  Once the authorization has gone through the entire routing process and has received final approval, the traveler may then go on their...

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Rental Cars & ETS

»Posted by on Nov 30, 2012 in Electronic Travel Systems, Rental Cars | 0 comments

In sections 2d and 3a of the Certified Government Travel Professional Training Course, I must admit I try not to rental cars whenever possible when I travel on official business. When I am on a site visit and we are researching meeting locations, then it is unavoidable. Generally I would call the Rental Car Company directly to obtain their government rates. I realize I could have reserved through our Omega Travel System but, for some reason, I was not comfortable with the system. I was always concerned about the liability issue. In reading this section I really shouldn’t have worried. Everything seemed to be covered in this regard. The Electronic Travel Systems section details the Federal Government system. Since the U.S. Postal Service is quasi-government, our...

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Global Distribution Systems and the Federal Traveler

»Posted by on Nov 19, 2012 in Electronic Travel Systems, Global Distribution Systems, Hotels, Rental Cars | 0 comments

The Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) require that all federal travel be booked using a government travel agent, also known as a Travel Management Center (TMC).  Reservations can be made on-line using an e-Gov travel systems or via a phone call to the TMC.  When you use a TMC, your reservations are booked using one of the Global Distribution Systems (GDS) such as Sabre, Galileo, or Worldspan.  The GDS were previously known as Computer Reservation Systems (CRS) and were created by major airlines to aggregate the schedules, pricing, and inventory of the world’s airlines that could be used by travel agents to make reservations. The GDS eventually began including hotel, rental car, tour and cruise inventory for those companies that wanted to pay to participate....

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DTS, ETS & FedRooms

»Posted by on Nov 2, 2012 in Electronic Travel Systems, Hotels, Payment Methods | 2 comments

The federal government has taken on monumental tasks implementing the DTS system and ETS systems, and I commend DoD and GSA for their actions. Surprisingly, although the systems have been in place for many years now, my experience has been that neither group has been able to obtain the type of management reports necessary to effectively alter traveler behavior or leverage their purchasing power during negotiations. As a simple example, let’s take the FedRooms program. Currently DoD does not participate in the program. Therefore the FedRooms rates, according to GSA’s FedRooms manager, are not even loaded into the DTS system for display to DoD travelers. On the ETS side of the house, while FedRooms rates (XVU code) are displayed, they are displayed with up to 20...

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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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Car Rentals and ETS

»Posted by on Jun 21, 2012 in Electronic Travel Systems, Rental Cars | 0 comments

CAR RENTALS: Today Car rentals are all run by Corporations and private enterprises (they used to be owned by Auto manufactures). This $16 billion industry offers its services to the Government through formal agreements. The Car Rental Program for the government is now a day’s run by the Defense Travel Management Office (DTMO). The government business is valued at $300 million with over 2.25 million cars at 5000 locations. The car rental agreement between the (DTMO) and the car rental companies offers a very competitive service to the government using various car sizes and benefits like: free CDW, Unlimited Mileage, Reduced driver age to 18 for official travel (with no underage driver fee), online bookings on DTS,ETS, Quality control and Car Upgrade from some...

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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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FTR and ETS

»Posted by on Dec 16, 2011 in Electronic Travel Systems, Government Traveler Comments | 0 comments

In 2003, the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) amendment 2003-07, FTR Case 2003-303, E-Gov Travel Service, was published in the Federal Register. This rule requires agency-wide use of the eTravel Service now known as E-Gov Travel” The proposed amendment to the Federal Travel Regulation requiring executive branch agencies to begin implementing the ETS no later than December 31, 2004 with complete agency-wide migration no later than September 30, 2006. According to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA): “The E-Gov Travel Service (ETS) is government-wide, web-based, world-class travel management service. It was launched in April 2002 to save significantly on costs and improve employee productivity.” Well stated, so why does my agency not use the E-Gov...

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Transaction Fees

»Posted by on Dec 6, 2011 in Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

The various transaction fees associated with Government travel are a source of confusion for travelers.  Whether using an embedded Travel Management Center (TMC) from the ETS Master Contract, or an accommodated (third party) TMC – usually from the Travel Services Solutions (TSS) Schedule 599 – there are multiple fees that need to be understood. If an agency’s TMC services are provided via the ETS Master Contract, there are two primary fees to be concerned with in the most common domestic Temporary Duty (TDY) travel scenario which includes air and/or rail.  First is the TDY voucher processing fee, ranging from $10.28 to $13.50 per voucher.  I have heard users of my agency’s E-Gov Travel system wonder why they now have to pay to process travel...

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DTS

»Posted by on Aug 10, 2011 in Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

The Defense Travel Management Office established in 2006, is a positive example of how government can streamline best practices and procedures into one government entity. The DTMO serves to establish direction, set policy and centrally manage the defense departments commercial travel programs. DTMO is responsible for the DTS online booking tool and monitors the usage, cost and customer satisfaction in order to determine the efficiency and effectiveness. Since the implementation of DTS (Defense Travel System) in 2006 the system now operates over 9,500 sites worldwide and has approximately 75,000 users accessing it on a daily basis. The positive customer service results and the efficiency of the tool have been hard to ignore. Per the Transportation Reform Act of...

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Accounting for Travel Transactions

»Posted by on Aug 9, 2011 in Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods | 0 comments

The electronic travel system (ETS) benefits the federal traveler, program office, and finance office with management and evaluation of travel activity.  To the traveler the ETS is a mechanism for electronically booking common carrier, lodging accommodations, and car rental services, and for claiming reimbursement of travel expenses.  The ETS provides the program office a system to manage travel activities, to insure compliance to the Federal Travel Regulations and to electronically account for use of program funds. To us in the finance office, the ETS provides the required documentation to account for and disburse federal funds. The electronic travel document corresponds to an accounting transaction. In order for the travel system to communicate the travel and...

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Receipt Retention Capability In Electronic Travel Systems

»Posted by on Aug 9, 2011 in Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods | 0 comments

On September 22, 2006, the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) was amended to mandate the use of the receipt management tool for agencies that deployed an electronic travel system. Under the Per Diem Expenses section, a note was added to §301–11.25 stating that hard copy receipts should be electronically scanned and submitted with the electronic travel claim if  the agency has this capability available with the use of ETS. The system used by my agency has this capability and is used accordingly. 301-11.25  Must I provide receipts to substantiate my claimed travel expenses? Yes. You must provide a lodging receipt and a receipt for every authorized expense over $75, or  provide a reason acceptable to your agency explaining why you are unable to furnish the...

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Transaction Fees

»Posted by on Aug 9, 2011 in Electronic Travel Systems, Payment Methods, Travel Management Centers | 0 comments

There various fees which can be added to the trip total of a traveler when using an eGov Travel system.  Some of the fees include the TMC, IFF and eGov Travel contractor transaction fee. The TMC (Travel Management Center) fee is paid to the travel agency under contract with the Federal Government to provide reservation services for airline tickets, hotel reservations and car rentals.  The fee is determined by using comprehensive economic models and approved by GSA.  Travelers are always encouraged to select air tickets through the eGov Travel application as this is the most cost effective method for the government.  Due to the complexities of the some foreign travel, it is appropriate at times to contact the travel management center directly to obtain...

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Travel Authorizations

»Posted by on Aug 7, 2011 in Electronic Travel Systems | 0 comments

Travel authorizations are documents that Government travelers complete to itemize travel expenses and obligate funds.  This document serves as the official travel orders and is approved by the authorizing official. By using an electronic travel system, (ETS), authorizations are completely automated.  The automation process allows you to set up the itinerary, make the reservations, add the expenses, select the line of accounting and sign the authorization to start routing to the appropriate approving officials.  You can book the airline or train reservation, book a rental car, and select your hotel all while completing your travel orders. It’s important to include any expense you may incur, while in official travel status, on the travel authorization and...

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