Going, Going, Gone — Going Green

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» 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) signed into law in 1998 was an important step toward transacting business electronically through the use of the internet. Moving toward electronic transactions and electronic signatures reduced transaction costs for government agencies. GPEA basically states that electronic records and their related electronic signatures are not to be denied legal effect, validity, or enforceability merely because they are in electronic form. Back in the day, travel forms were completed on a typewriter and manually routed by interoffice mail or snail mail to obtain the appropriate approvals. These paper copy documents along with supporting documentation such as receipts were retained and stored according to the National Records and Archive Administration’s (NARA) retention requirements.
Other laws and initiatives that moved government toward going green include Computer Security Act of 1987, the Paper Reduction Act (PRA) of 1980 (later amended in 1995), Debt Collection Act of 1996, and in 2001 the Presidents Management Agenda (PMA) outlining the 24 E-Government initiatives. EGov Travel Service was born from this PMA.
EGov Travel Service introduced a web based travel service that includes an end to end travel process for the government traveler. A traveler can access the travel system from any location that has internet service. As a traveler or document planner is entering details for their trip itinerary, the authorization is being built. Travel reservations such as hotel, air, rental car are pulled from live inventory stored in a global distribution system and booked on-line as the reservations are being selected in the travel system. The documents route for approval based on predetermined routing lists. The Federal Travel Regulations are built into the system providing the correct rates and per diem associated with the trip location. Pre-audits are performed on the selections in the document which alerts the user of fails that may need to be justified or corrected prior to final approval such as use of non-contract carrier or first consideration of Fedrooms for hotel reservations. Upon return from the trip, the traveler submits a voucher for reimbursement by updating, adding, and/or deleting expenses that pulled from the authorization into the voucher to reflect the actual expenses incurred. Email notifications are sent to the appropriate parties throughout the document process to inform the traveler of actions that need to be taken or for receipt of the itinerary and invoices from the Travel Management Center (TMC). Documentation and receipts to support the trip are faxed or scanned into the document. Most agencies have elected for the travel system to be the “official record holder” for retention purposes as defined by NARA. All documentation stored in the travel system can be electronically retrieved for audit purposes.
The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 brought a fresh look and energy to the Telework Program. Even though the concept of Telework also known as Flexiplace had been around for decades, the federal government was behind the private sector in removing limitations that restricted participation in teleworking. Incidents such as 911 and inclement weather that shut down government agencies for days led to a more active approach for continuity of operations when employees could not physically go into the office. Employees were motivated to finds ways to go paperless.
My agency has been working toward making positions and tasks conductive to telework while still maintaining our excellent service to our customers in the role of a shared service provider. Many of our processes have been streamlined and moved toward a paperless environment. Employees are embracing the move from paper to electronic documents. Additional security, training, and equipment such as Voice-Over-IP were put in place to allow our travel help desk to assist customers from an alternate work site. Our agency telework policy and expectations were clearly communicated to employees wanting to participate in the program. We have several means of communication in place such as email with Sametime, blackberries, and the capability to transfer office phones to an alternate number for transparency to customers. Some benefits that have been derived from our telework program to date are:
• flexibility in managing the workforce;
• continuing to meet our customers’ expectations on the services provided;
• helping employees enhance their lives by balancing work with personal time:
• improving Continuity of Operations to help ensure that essential federal functions continue during emergency situations or inclement weather;
• retaining a more resilient Federal workforce able to better meet agency goals;
• providing comfortable and productive opportunities for persons with health problems;
• increasing productivity by less interruptions from idle chatter;
• reducing environmentally impact from commuting to work; and eventually
• reducing office space for future cost savings to the federal government.
Government has been making progress in the effort to go paperless. Government going green could be extremely beneficial – environmentally and financially.
“The contents of this message are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the Government or my agency.

By Julie Gilchrist, CGTP

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