Management Letter: Recommendations for Improvements to MCC's Internal Controls and Policies on Premium Class Air Travel

GAO-08-468R Published: Feb 29, 2008. Publicly Released: Feb 29, 2008.
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On September 28, 2007, GAO issued a report detailing our findings of improper and abusive premium class travel governmentwide. The audit was performed at the request of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate, and Senator Grassley, Committee on Finance, U.S. Senate. As part of the audit, we tested premium class transactions at the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). While our report provided recommendations to the General Services Administration (GSA) and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the purpose of this letter is to report on specific matters identified during our audit that relate to weaknesses in internal controls at MCC. This letter contains three recommendations that warrant management's consideration.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Millennium Challenge Corporation To reduce improper premium class travel, the Chief Executive Officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation should implement improved internal controls over the use of premium class travel. While a wide range of activities can contribute to a system that provides reasonable assurance that premium class travel is properly authorized and justified, at a minimum the internal control activities should include the following: (1) require specific authorization for the use of premium class, to be documented and retained with travel orders; (2) enforce FTR regulations prohibiting premium class travel if the trip was over 14 hours and the traveler had a rest stop at destination or a rest stop en route; and (3) prohibit the use of premium class air travel on weekend arrivals, except in cases where a traveler documents that he or she will report immediately to work upon arrival before incurring a rest period.
Closed - Implemented
MCC's Temporary Duty Travel Policies and Procedures directive, dated February 2012, establishes the overall responsibility for MCC Approving Officials to ensure travel expense cost savings by requiring coach class flights, with travelers' use of rest stops or business class lounges enroute, instead of more costly business class flights when flights exceed 14 hours in duration. The directive increases the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) flight time requirement (i.e., the 14-hour rule) that officials must consider in reviewing a request for premium class accommodations, and includes the FTR's requirements related to rest stops and traveler reporting-for-duty timeframe. Per the directive, any OCONUS flight where premium class accommodations are requested must have total travel time that meets or exceeds 20 hours, and the traveler cannot take a rest stop or use a business class lounge during the trip and will report for duty within 24 hours of arrival at the final destination. The directive requires written justification and approval for any premium class air travel; the justification must explicitly cite the specific FTR exception(s) that allow premium class accommodations. For example, when using the travel time exception, traveler must include three criteria in the justification: (1) travel time is 20 hours or more; (2) there will not be an overnight rest stop or fee-based use of a business class lounge en route to the final destination; and (3) the traveler will report for duty within 24 hours of arriving at the final destination. The written justification/approval must be included and retained in travel order documentation. These provisions in MCC's current TDY travel directive meet the intent of our recommendation.

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