The White House:

Travel Office Operations

GGD-94-132: Published: May 2, 1994. Publicly Released: May 2, 1994.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the White House Travel Office's operations, focusing on: (1) its past operations and oversight; (2) its current operations and the extent to which past problems have been corrected; (3) actions taken in 1993 that led to White House officials' decision to investigate Travel Office operations; and (4) the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) and Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) investigations.

GAO found that: (1) there are significant financial and personnel management weaknesses in the White House Travel Office, including the lack of formal procurement guidelines and procedures, proper accounting systems, adequate documentation and billing practices, and effective controls over cash management; (2) although the Travel Office stated that new accounting systems and internal control procedures have been in use since 1993, they had not been fully implemented by 1994; (3) the new Travel Office Director has implemented previous GAO recommendations and improved the Travel Office's systems and procedures; (4) in May 1993, White House officials had proper legal authority to dismiss White House Travel Office employees without cause because they were presidential appointees; (5) the dismissals were properly based on audits which found significant financial management weaknesses; (6) although two employees had access to the White House and participated in Travel Office decisions, they were not subject to conflict-of-interest laws; (7) the White House should have made greater efforts to keep its management decisions confidential and to restrict nongovernmental employees' access to White House offices; (8) FBI and IRS activities during the employees' dismissal were reasonable and consistent with the agencies' normal procedures; and (9) although there is no evidence that White House staff members contacted IRS during the investigative period, they may have unduly influenced the FBI investigation.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The White House reports that meetings between the Travel Office Director and the White House Correspondents' Association are now held at least quarterly to provide feedback on the services provided by the Travel Office.

    Recommendation: To further improve the operations of the White House Travel Office, the White House Chief of Staff should direct the Assistant to the President for Management and Administration to identify the full range of customers involved with the press travel services and periodically determine customer satisfaction with the services provided by the Travel Office.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of the Chief of Staff

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The White House reports that the periodic meetings with officials from the Office of Management and Administration and the Travel Office Director are methods of ensuring that the recommendations have been and will continue to be effectively implemented.

    Recommendation: To further improve the operations of the White House Travel Office, the White House Chief of Staff should direct the Assistant to the President for Management and Administration to establish a mechanism to validate that the actions taken and promised have been effectively implemented.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of the Chief of Staff

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The White House reports that it has completed all of the 29 specific financial management criteria contained in the report.

    Recommendation: To further improve the operations of the White House Travel Office, the White House Chief of Staff should direct the Assistant to the President for Management and Administration to give priority to completing other actions that will fully implement systems and procedures consistent with the financial management criteria described in the report.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of the Chief of Staff

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The White House reports that meetings with officials from the Office of Management and Administration are held periodically with the Travel Office Director to provide management and that weekly meetings are held to provide financial oversight. The White House also reports that fieldwork related to the financial audit of trip activity during 1994 has been completed and that similar financial audits will be conducted annually.

    Recommendation: To further improve the operations of the White House Travel Office, the White House Chief of Staff should direct the Assistant to the President for Management and Administration to establish a process to ensure that appropriate oversight and review of Travel Office operations is provided, including an annual financial audit.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of the Chief of Staff

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The White House reports that guides for accounting and advance procedures have been completed and are currently being used by all Travel Office staff.

    Recommendation: To further improve the operations of the White House Travel Office, the White House Chief of Staff should direct the Assistant to the President for Management and Administration to prepare complete written guidance for Travel Office staff to better ensure that procedures are implemented properly.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of the Chief of Staff

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The White House reports that procedures have been implemented to limit the number of nongovernment employees with White House access passes and that special reporting procedures have been implemented for pass holders who are political advisors or consultants and not regular or special government employees.

    Recommendation: To better ensure that White House access is commensurate with accountability, the White House Chief of Staff should develop policies governing appropriate activities by nongovernment employees granted regular White House access and establish a mechanism for periodically assessing the implementation of those policies.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of the Chief of Staff

 

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