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We perform post-payment travel voucher audits as a service to our customers. These audits are not punitive in nature, but rather, they are meant to serve as an educational tool so that travelers can avoid making the same mistakes in the future. A checklist is used when performing the audit, so only items that are on the checklist are of concern. We audit both the ETS part of the voucher and the accounting system entries. The ETS part of the voucher is audited to ensure compliance with Federal Travel Regulations (FTR).
The first item on the checklist is verifying that required receipts are attached. This is perhaps one of the most frequently misunderstood parts of the voucher. Travelers are often unsure whether some expenses require receipts or they simply forget to attach them. Ticketed transportation receipts, such as those for airfare or train fare, must be attached and must clearly show the price of the ticket. Boarding passes or itineraries without the price displayed are not acceptable. Lodging receipts are also required and must show each night of lodging that was claimed in the voucher. Travelers must also attach receipts for rental cars and any miscellaneous expenses over $75.00. Often, instead of claiming several separate expenses individually, travelers will claim one lump sum. If this sum is over $75.00, the traveler must either attach receipts or itemize the expenses. Lastly, local vouchers must have receipts attached for any non-travel expenses incurred, such as postage or utility bills. Failing to attach a receipt does not automatically constitute an error, as we request any missing receipts from the traveler.
Ticketed transportation is reviewed to ensure that it was claimed properly. The TMC/ETS should be used when making reservations. If the TMC or ETS was not used, there must be a justification entered in the pre-audit section. If no justification is entered, then it is an error. Also, if airfare is claimed, a contract flight, or City Pair Fare, should be used. If not, there must be a justification entered into the pre-audit section. Every traveler’s circumstances are different and there are many reasons that they may not have been able to take a contract flight, so we do not closely scrutinize their justification for not taking one. We also note the method of reimbursement for the ticketed transportation.
There are many different miscellaneous expenses that a traveler may also claim. A comprehensive list of reimbursable miscellaneous expenses can be found in the FTR. If the expense is legitimate, and it is over the $75.00 threshold, a receipt must be attached. If no receipt is attached, we request one from the traveler. As noted earlier, the traveler may lump expenses of the same type together and claim them as one.
The lodging and M&IE (per diem) portion of the vouchers is also audited. The dates of lodging and the amounts claimed must match those on the receipts. An additional check for domestic trips is to ensure that any lodging taxes were claimed as a separate miscellaneous expense. If the trip was to a foreign location, the taxes should not be claimed separately, but should be included in the total lodging claimed.
The M&IE expenses are also reviewed to ensure that only 3/4 of the allowance was claimed on the first and last day of travel, and that the full amount was claimed on the other days. If actual expense was claimed for either lodging or M&IE expenses, the traveler must check the “actuals” box in the ETS, enter the amount claimed and then enter a justification in the pre-audit section as to why they claimed actual expense. If actual expenses are claimed, but no justifications is entered, than this counts as an error.
The accounting system portion of the voucher is also checked to ensure that it matches up correctly with the accounting information that is in the ETS. The accounting detail section of the voucher in the ETS is usually printed out and checked against the information in the accounting system. The vouchers are checked line by line to ensure that the dollar amounts match, as well as the accounting codes.
Although there are many items checked in the audits, the audits, themselves, are relatively easy to perform. They also serve as a useful learning tool to the agencies we service. Any errors found on the audits can be used to further educate travelers on the proper ways of claiming expenses and booking travel through the ETS.
By Mark Hartshorn
The contents of this message are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the Government or my agency.