Proposals for Improving the Management of Federal Travel

FPCD-81-13: Published: Dec 24, 1980. Publicly Released: Dec 24, 1980.

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GAO discussed the elements of a good travel management system; current policies and procedures to budget, monitor, and authorize travel in the Federal Government; the equity of different military and civilian travel reimbursement practices; recent travel management initiatives; and the applicability of private sector travel policies and practices to Federal travel management. Travel in the Departments of Agriculture and the Army and the findings of congressional investigative staffs in the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services and the Environmental Protection Agency were reviewed.

Budgets are essentially based on past levels of travel expenditures. The lack of accurate data on the cost and purposes of travel can make travel budgets unreliable and travel unmanageable. The President's 1981 budget did not reflect all of the reductions in 1980 travel mandated by Congress. Loose authorization procedures and lax management attitudes have hindered effective travel management. Department of Agriculture employees use general travel authorizations beyond the scope intended for their use. Agriculture has delegated trip approval to first-line supervisors who may not be aware of the agency's priorities and travel funds' availability. Congress has cited numerous examples of questionable travel practices in the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services and in the Environmental Protection Agency. These include unjustifed use of first-class accommodations, frequent use of personal leave in conjunction with official travel, retreats held for top managers attended largely by headquarters personnel, and questionable need for travel by secretaries. Similar abuses of conference travel have been reported at the General Services Administration. Different statutes, written by different authorities, established travel entitlements for civilian and uniformed personnel and, as a result, they receive different entitlements for similar travel. Differences also occur when Congress does not simultaneously raise the per diem ceilings for the two groups.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Management and Budget should revise budget guidelines to (1) focus more specifically on the purpose of each kind of travel and require heads of departments and agencies to revise their reporting and budgeting systems accordingly; and (2) require that agency Inspectors General and internal auditors periodically test the accuracy of travel costs reporting.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services and the Per Diem, Travel, and Transportation Allowance Committee should take actions to eliminate the differences in boundaries and maximum rates for high rate geographical areas.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Management and Budget should bring to the attention of top agency officials the agency managers' lack of compliance with Federal travel policies and direct the top officials to make sure these managers follow these policies.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget

  4. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Agriculture should (1) restrict the use of general travel authorizations to those employees whose work requires frequent temporary duty travel; and (2) require written authorization for all other travel.

    Agency Affected: Department of Agriculture

  5. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should propose a legislative package to (1) provide authority for a househunting trip for uniformed personnel under orders for a station transfer in the conterminous United States; (2) provide a temporary lodgings and subsistence allowance in lieu of basic quarters and subsistence allowances when uniformed personnel occupy temporary quarters incident to a move within the United States, its possessions and territories, and Puerto Rico; (3) replace the (a) mileage allowance in lieu of transportation and (b) station transfer mileage allowance with a mileage reimbursement plus per diem for uniformed members and their dependents on temporary duty and station transfer travel; and (4) set maximum per diem rates in title 37 by reference to title 5, United States Code.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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