Reimbursed Travel:

Commerce and FTC Generally Met Requirements but Some Improvements Needed

GGD-95-32: Published: Jan 26, 1995. Publicly Released: Jan 26, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Commerce's and the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) controls over the acceptance and reporting of nonfederally reimbursed travel by their employees, focusing on: (1) whether Commerce and FTC met their review and reporting requirements; and (2) the implications of Commerce denying the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) access to its records of reimbursed travel in 1992.

GAO found that: (1) although Commerce generally met applicable requirements for accepting and reporting travel reimbursements, certain procedural improvements could be implemented in the receipt and reporting of these funds; (2) Commerce did not ensure that travel requests contained all of the required information, were prepared and reviewed before trips were approved, accurately disclosed the circumstances of each trip, or adequately documented the actual expenses reimbursed; (3) although FTC consistently met the requirements for controlling the acceptance and reporting of travel reimbursements by its employees, it could improve its reporting by better detailing the nature of events attended by FTC employees; (4) Commerce's decision to deny OGE access to its travel records was based on its view that OGE was not responsible for the applicable travel regulations; and (5) although Commerce changed its position and acknowledged that OGE did have the authority to review such records, the overall effect of Commerce's temporary denial of access was minimal.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Commerce's Office of General Counsel issued a memorandum on January 17, 1995, to all chief administrative officers which stated that action should be taken immediately to inform their employees of the continuing responsibility to have travel gifts approved prior to acceptance. It also required an employee engaged in travel to contact his or her office for appropriate clearance.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should take actions to ensure that all Commerce employees' travel requests containing all of the necessary information, such as the name of the payer and the amount and type of expenses to be paid, are reviewed and approved before a trip.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Commerce's Office of General Counsel developed a form which, if properly completed, will provide all the required information necessary for reporting to OGE. COmmerce's General Counsel also issued a memorandum on January 17, 1995, to all chief administrative officers requiring them to ensure that employees used the appropriate form and to take the necessary steps to ensure that the gift reporting form is properly completed before it is sent to the Office of General Counsel. The memorandum also said that the Office of General Counsel will continue to check the forms to identify ones which are incomplete.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should take actions to ensure that the Office of General Counsel, as part of its responsibilities for submitting semiannual reports to OGE, ensure these reports include the required information, including the dates and nature of events attended and expenses paid.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Assistant General Counsel for Administration issued a memorandum to the heads of operating units and secretarial officers which requested the following steps be taken: (1) Employees must complete a travel voucher after a trip that involves a travel gift. This should be done even if the trip involved no expense to the governemnt; and (2) Employees should retain evidence of all gifts by obtaining receipts, unless the gift is a meal.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Commerce should take actions to ensure that Commerce offices require: (1) travel vouchers; and (2) receipts for reimbursed expenses, except for meals since they are not required by Federal Travel Regulations to be supported in this manner.

    Agency Affected: Department of Commerce

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: FTC is including more complete descriptions of the nature of events attended by non-federally reimbursed travelers in its semiannual report to OGE.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, Federal Trade Commission, should require the Office of General Counsel to ensure that the agency's reports to OGE more completely describe the nature of the events attended.

    Agency Affected: Federal Trade Commission

 

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