Waste in Travel Expenditures

» Posted by on Sep 13, 2013 in History and Overview | 0 comments

As a Government worker, I would like to respond to aka1979′s posting. Let me start by saying that I agree that $2.5 billion dollars is a lot of money. However, the Federal Government is very large and performs a lot of functions. This figure covers subsistence expenses for both civilian and military employees. It would be interesting to know how many trips by how many employees are included in this figure.

The Government does a lot of training on-line and does training and performs functions using teleconferencing. It is my experience that most large facilities have teleconferencing capabilities and use them. Aka1979, seems to presume that all or most of this travel is for training, but this is not the case. While some travel is for training or to attend conferences, much Government travel is for other purposes. You cannot provide emergency relief, deploy a soldier, investigate a crime, inspect a facility, or perform many other government functions by teleconference.

While some waste may occur in travel expenditures, Government workers do not live high on the hog when traveling. GSA sets per diem rates for each CONUS locality. Special rates are negotiated with hotel chains in most cities and a maximum hotel rate is established. (It is interesting to note that, because of the negotiated rate, you can sometimes stay at a nice hotel for the same rate offered by an economy hotel.) Because of the discounted rates and limits, it is usually not an advantage to arrange meetings on specific days of the week. It is my experience that conferences and other large gatherings are often scheduled at facilities during the off season when the Government can get good rates. While corporate counterparts are holding January meetings in Florida or Hawaii, we are usually watching the snow pile up at Virginia Beach. As for the per diem itself, within the U.S. it is payed at a flat rate for each city. The rate is not generous and I have only heard of one person who came out ahead, by eating every meal at McDonalds. I have, in the past, traveled with private sector personnel who were not happy that they could not enjoy the lavish meals that they were use to on their expense accounts if they wished to join us. Unfortunately, the Government also does not allow us to accept free meals either.

As for airfares, which I do not believe are included in the $2.5 billion figure, we normally travel on the GSA city pairs contract rates. These rates do not change based on advance booking and are preferable for many situations, even if you know in advance when you will be traveling, as they allow for last minute changes and cancellations. In addition, most of us are required to travel on economy fares.

In short, while no system is without waste, my guess is that most corporations pay more per capita for similar trips.

by Scott Goldsmith

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