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I work in the Travel Division of a Government Shared Service Provider (SSP). Under the Director’s office is a section for Division wide policy research and information. Travel is a broad subject; therefore, the Division is broken down into two Branches of travel expertise. One is for travelers relocating to a new city or country which is called Permanent Change of Station. The Branch in which I work is for travelers that are traveling on a temporary basis and is called Temporary Duty Services. This is for travelers that will be traveling for one day up to approximately a month. It can be more but generally, the time-frame is typically a week or less. Our Branch is then broken down into the following areas: Customer Service, Accounting, and Charge Card.
In Customer Service, we are primarily focused on providing our SSP customers with helpdesk support for the travel system software. This includes walking them through creating authorizations, assisting with basic reservation questions for airfare, hotel, rental car, and rail, and the creation of vouchers and local vouchers. Aside from the helpdesk, there are other functions within Customer Service that are performed by other employees. These include:
- Changes in Routing Lists/Groups
- Invitational Travel
- Exit Clearances
- Agency Travel Software Training in a Classroom Environment
- Registration Access to the Travel System
- New Agency Implementation
- Profile Updates/Changes
- Report Creation
- Post Payment Audits
- Travel System Issues that Require Further Research
These are just a few of the travel functions that our Customer Service group is responsible for but the main point is that it takes many subject matter experts to adequately service travelers. This flows into the other two areas of our Temporary Duty Services Branch, which are Accounting and Charge Card.
Our accounting area, also known as Systems and Accounting Support, is responsible for making sure travelers receive their travel reimbursements in a timely manner. There is an automated process that travel accounting technicians run every morning to process the documents from the travel system into the accounting system. Most documents post to the accounting system without issues but some will require additional assistance. For instance, if a traveler receives an advance in the authorization, it becomes a manual posting to the financial system. The same applies after the trip when the voucher is processed so that the advance can be deducted from the total cost of the trip.
As all document types (authorizations, vouchers, and local vouchers) are interfaced to the accounting system, many ‘checks’ are in place to ensure timely payments. Accounting technicians are proficient in running different reports throughout the interface process so that travel payments are issued to the traveler and charge card vendor to make sure that the payments are accurate. Travelers’ payments are directly deposited into their bank account within three to five business days after the voucher is approved in the travel system.
There are many factors involved to ensure that all runs smoothly from the beginning of the travel process to the end result. It takes all areas of our office to accomplish the following process.
When a new employee is hired by an agency, the first thing they must do in order to travel is to apply for a Government charge card and supply their direct deposit information to our office. Their profile is built in the travel system and the charge card information is added as well as the other pertinent information that leads to a successful payment. After a profile is built and the traveler creates their ID and password for the travel system, they create a travel authorization before traveling so that the funds can be obligated in the financial system.
After their authorization is complete with reservations and the other information such as accounting code, expenses, and proper routing, the document is electronically signed. It then follows the electronic path and is ultimately approved by an approving official. Some agencies route documents to an Examiner before it is approved so that a budget officer can review the accounting information to ensure the funds are available to cover the trip. After the authorization is approved, it is interfaced to the accounting system in our office. When the traveler returns from the trip, he/she creates a voucher.
The voucher is created from the authorization in the travel system. All information that was previously entered in the authorization populates into the voucher. The traveler updates the voucher to reflect the actual expenses incurred on the trip and they attach the required receipts to the voucher by either faxing or scanning. After reviewing the voucher for accuracy, it is routed electronically. It must first be signed by the traveler and then proceeds to route to the approving official. Our office interfaces the document to the accounting system and then the reimbursement will be deposited in the traveler’s bank account.
It takes all areas of Travel to accomplish a successful trip for a traveler. I have covered what it takes from my office’s perspective but other offices are involved as well. We all work as one big team from the traveler, the travel management center, our office, and many others to make the whole experience an enjoyable one.
By: Cindy Moore Pomrenke
The contents of this message are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the Government or my agency.