Fedrooms for Improvement

» Posted by on Feb 22, 2014 in Hotels | 0 comments

FedRooms is the enhanced Federal Premier Lodging Program designed to make Federal travel more convenient.   FedRooms promotes the following benefits with a hotel room reservation: rates at-or-below Government per diems; no-fee reservation cancellation privileges, no added costs (health club fee, resort fee, etc.), no early check-out fees, and last room availability of program rates at many hotels.  FedRooms rates are easy to obtain by using your E-Gov Travel System, by making your reservation on the FedRooms.com website, or by calling the hotel and asking for the FedRooms rate.  All FedRooms properties are FEMA-approved and there are currently over 6,500 hotels to choose from worldwide.  What more can a Federal traveler ask for.

As well as providing Government travelers with such a great program, the General Services Administration (GSA) has also added a requirement to the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) regarding FedRooms.  FTR 301-50.8 currently states that “first consideration” must be given to commercial lodging facilities under the FedRooms lodging program when Government travelers make their hotel selection with the following exceptions:

(i)            A FedRooms facility is not available at the location you need (e.g., there are no FedRooms facilities under contract within a reasonable proximity of your temporary duty station, or there are no vacancies at the FedRooms facilities at that location).

(ii)           Your agency has other contractual arrangements with commercial lodging facilities that meet the FEMA fire safety requirements at a lower cost than FedRooms properties.

(iii)          Your agency determines on an individual case-by-case basis that it is not practical to use FedRooms facilities to meet mission requirements.

(iv)         You are attending a conference with prearranged lodging accommodations and are required to book lodging directly with the lodging facility.

(v)          Your travel is OCONUS.

With FedRooms benefits and FTR policy requiring first consideration being given to FedRooms properties, how do they explain the fact that FedRooms usage represented less than one percent of total Government estimated lodging costs in FY 2007 and only two percent for the first three quarters of FY 2008 as stated in the “Final Report: Improving the FedRooms Program Based on Benchmarking,

Federal Acquisition Service, Report Number A080074/Q/A/P08009″ conducted by GSA’s Office of the Inspector General?

One reason is there are no “teeth” to the current Federal travel policy mandating or, at the least, strongly encouraging participation in FedRooms. Stating in the FTR that first consideration must be given to FedRooms properties was probably the closest that the regulatory agency could come to mandating usage because of other regulatory requirements found in Title 5, United States Code § 5911(e), which states:

“The head of an agency may not require an employee or member of a uniformed service to occupy quarters on a rental basis, unless the agency head determines that necessary service cannot be rendered, or that property of the Government cannot adequately be protected, otherwise.”

On March 13, 2008, GSA sent Congress a comprehensive legislative proposal, “the GSA Enhancement Act of 2008”, that contained legislation to remove the prohibition against mandating the use of the lodging program; however, it is still in limbo without a sponsor. Title II, Section 207 of the proposed GSA Enhancement Act of 2008 would state that this provision does not apply to lodging reimbursed under Chapter 57, which deals with travel, transportation, and subsistence allowances. Therefore, the head of an agency could require employees to use a lodging program, such as FedRooms.

Even though at this time the FTR cannot mandate use of the FedRooms program, language could be strengthened to more strongly encourage participation in the program. Also, the importance and benefits of using FedRooms could be spelled out in the FTR like it is for the U.S. Government Car Rental Agreement.  Travelers want to know why they should use a program that is not mandated—what do they get out of it.  By explaining the benefits of using FedRooms and how by increasing usage the Government gains more leverage for negotiating room cost, additional amenities, and more conveniently located hotels, travelers will see the importance of using the non-mandated program.  Having this noted in the FTR would provide a point of reference for travelers, travel managers, approving officials, and travel policy trainers.

Because the FTR already includes a list of exceptions for not giving FedRooms first consideration, it would be easy to add a requirement for citing one of the exceptions and obtaining supervisory approval for the exception.  The E-Gov Travel Systems could be set up the same way they currently are for the exceptions to usage of the City Pair Program fares.  This would strongly encourage travelers to use FedRooms.

By making these few changes to the language of the FTR now and updated the E-Gov Travel Systems, the FedRooms program could see significant improvement in usage without being a mandated program.  If regulatory requirements change in the future allowing a lodging program to become mandated, then Government agencies would be positioned to do so with little effort.  Even the E-Gov Travel Systems would already be set up with the appropriate audits for the exceptions.  Making these policy changes seems to be one of the simplest measures the Government could take to improve the usage of the FedRooms program.

by Angela Williamson

“The contents of this message are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the Government or my agency.”

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