Vice President's Office Honors Travel Reform Teamfor Saving the Government $785 Million a Year
March 18, 1997
Contact: Darlene Meskell
or Hap Connors
Under a 1939 law, supervisors were required to certify that each long-distance telephone call made by a Federal employee on travel was "in the interest of the Government." All travelers had to submit receipts for telephone calls, regardless of the amount. Agencies had to review them and retain them for six years and three months. It cost the government more to audit the calls than the calls themselves.
Despite the reduction in long-distance costs to less than 10 cents a minute, this law and other out-dated Federal travel regulations were not changed until last September, when the Federal Employee Travel Reform legislation was enacted.
The changes will save the Government nearly $785 million a year in travel expenses and the costs of relocating employees.
Today, the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program (JFMIP), the multi-agency team responsible for recommending these reforms, received Vice President Gore's Hammer Award for improving the way Government works.
The award was presented by Elaine Kamarck, the Vice President's chief of staff, at the JFMIP conference in Arlington, VA. Sean Allan, now retired from the General Services Administration (GSA), and Donald Charney, Chief Financial Officer of the Agency for International Development, accepted the award for more than 60 team members from 24 agencies.
"This effort is clearly a magnificent example of what a team can accomplish," Kamarck said. "The re-engineering efforts of this team make life more reasonable for federal employees as they travel or relocate, which means they can be less hassled and more productive."
Besides abolishing the long-distance call-certification requirement, the changes include such "common sense" approaches as:
� Eliminating costly and time-consuming layers of approval for expense reimbursement;
� Paying relocating employees pre-determined costs for house-hunting trips and temporary lodging;
� Creating an incentive program for Federal employees who sell their own homes when they are relocated, rather than using Government relocation contractors; and
� Changing the rules for shipping privately-owned vehicles.
The JFMIP is a cooperative program established in 1948 when several Federal agencies came together to mobilize resources and coordinate efforts to improve financial management practices in the Government. In 1994, it created the interagency travel improvement project team to reengineer Federal travel policy.
GSA, a key player on the travel team, is leading the effort to get additional improvements adopted. A bill currently in Congress would require Federal workers to use the government travel card to charge official travel expenses. This provision supports the JFMIP recommendation to maximize the use of travel charge cards to reduce the need for agencies to provide cash advances and disbursement facilities.
Use of the government travel card, currently provided by American Express under contract with GSA, facilitates monitoring of travel expenses, and refunds to government agencies more than one-half percent of every dollar spent. In recent years, use of the travel card has returned more than $18 million annually.
GSA is also supporting the JFMIP recommendation to would allow agencies to pay for employment assistance for the spouse of a transferring employee. This is one of only two of the group's recommendations not included in the legislation enacted in 1996.
GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy is currently streamlining Federal travel and relocation regulations and rewriting them in a "plain English" question-and-answer format to make them easier to understand.
For further information on this and other GSA programs, visit the GSA home page at http://www.gsa.gov.