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 of our managers, especially those in the program areas, are here only as temporary personnel.  These interim managers do not understand appropriations law, government accounting, and they have no interest in complying with the FAR or the FTR.  Civil service staff often understood the rationale for the regulations and agency processes, but had a difficult time enforcing compliance when their management was telling them to do otherwise. There was a strong underlying culture of “make-it-work” and pro-forma paperwork (in some cases no paperwork until the travel vouchers were presented for payment).

Some of the problems discovered had been suspected for years by accounting personnel who did not have the political influence to correct them within the organization.  These issues included such things as traveling without evidence of advance approval for the travel (no written and approved orders); and violations of the Anti-Deficiency Act (traveling without funds committed and obligated in advance of expenditure by an authorizing official);   A significant amount of the organizational resistance to the implementation of the ETS, in my opinion, came not from just the complexity of the ETS, but also from the enforced standardization and compliance with the letter of the law and internal regulations.

Mandatory use of the ETS has successfully standardized travel practices and forced  cultural change at the agency that can only improve financial integrity and compliance with federal regulations, and the internal policies that require us all to be good custodians of the taxpayers’ money.

by Julie Speers

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