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The Travel and Transportation Reform Act of 1998 (Public Law 105-264) (TTRA) was signed into law on October 19, 1998. One of its main purposes is to reduce Federal travel costs and to streamline Federal travel processes. Among its provisions, it requires employees to use Federal travel charge cards for payments of official travel expenses. It provides for the payment of a late payment fee to employees when an agency fails to reimburse them for approved expenses within 30 days after submission of a proper voucher. It gives agencies the authority to collect undisputed, delinquent travel charge card debts through salary offset. It authorizes GSA to approve a limited number of agency pilot programs for cutting travel and relocation administrative expenses. It requires agencies to audit transportation bills for accuracy prior to payment instead of after payment. It authorizes the payment of income tax reimbursement allowances to employees, when their reimbursements for travel expenses become taxable after one year of continuous duty at a temporary duty location.
Then in August 2005, OMB Circular A-123 (revised), Appendix B, issued new travel charge card policies to Executive Branch departments and agencies in order to help reduce the risk of fraud, misuse, and late payments, which became effective October 1, 2005. These policies include the following:
- Each agency must provide training on the use of the official travel charge card.
- The A/OPC (the Agency/Organization Program Coordinator) is the official responsible for overseeing the card program for the agency and establishing agency guidelines.
- All agencies must implement risk management controls, policies, and practices for the travel charge card.
- Agencies are required to maintain policies ensuring that administrative and/or disciplinary actions are initiated against cardholders who fail to use the card properly or make timely payment.
- Split disbursement and salary offset is mandated for travel charge card holders. However, agencies may request exemptions when they determine that the cost of implementing split disbursement and/or salary offset exceeds the benefits.
- Agencies are required to maintain and report data and performance metrics for their charge card programs.
- Agencies must assess the credit worthiness of all new travel card applicants prior to issuing a card. Current cardholders are not subject to this requirement.
The General Services Administration (GSA) awards and administers a master contract for the Government travel card program, which is part of the GSA SmartPay Program. GSA is also responsible for issuing Government-wide policies and procedures for implementation of these regulations. In addition to adding the requirements of the TTRA to the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR), GSA included the following suggestions to reduce travel charge card delinquencies into the FTR (§301-70.708):
- Agency travel program coordinators must be trained and aware of their responsibilities and the delinquency man¬agement tools available under your agreement with the travel charge card contractor (internet training is available for the GSA SmartPay™ Travel Charge Card at: http://www.gsa.gov/traveltraining.)
- Ensure that managers and supervisors are provided monthly delinquency and questionable charges report.
- Periodically, but at least once a year, verify that card¬holders are still current employees.
- For inactive accounts (cards not used within 6 months, one year, etc., reduce card limit to $1, increase dollar limit when necessary.
- Work with the charge card contractor to block certain high-risk category codes (e.g., department stores, automobile dealerships, specialty stores), etc.
- Review ATM cash withdrawals for reasonableness and association with official travel.
- Implement a salary offset program.
- Implement split disbursement in your travel vouchering system, so that an employee may authorize you to make certain payments directly to the charge card contractor on the employee’s behalf.
At our agency, we have implemented all of the suggestions listed above and have experienced a notable reduction in travel charge card delinquencies.
by Angela Williamson
“The contents of this message are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the Government or my agency.”