State Travel Program Makes Getting from Here to There Easier
Johnson County Finds Success with State Travel Card Program
Traveling on government business is easier when you only have to make one stop.
That’s what many Texas local governments that use the State Travel Management Program have discovered. By piggybacking on contracts already negotiated with transportation and lodging firms, local governments can work efficiently, even when schedules change on short notice.
“It’s a tool,” says Margaret Cook, a purchasing agent with Johnson County. “It’s beneficial because it’s there and it’s accessible. We’ve had good results with it.”
Texas Procurement and Support Services (TPASS) awards and manages hundreds of statewide contracts on behalf of more than 200 state agencies and 1,700 local government agencies, making TPASS eligible for significantly discounted rates.
The Comptroller’s office has negotiated contracts for:
Using the programs has tangible benefits, among them:
- One-stop reservation and ticketing.
- Last minute and/or fully refundable airfares.
- Centralized payment.
- Discounted room rates.
- Lower rates for rental car rates that include unlimited mileage, loss damage waiver coverage and liability insurance.
In the interest of governments making sound financial decisions, the state provides exceptions to the use of preferred vendors.
Planning the Trip
The Johnson County Sheriff’s deputies use the program to arrange transport for inmates or witnesses.
Cook says the plan provides convenience for quick purchases and allows the county to easily track where staff went and what was purchased and when.
The Travel Card Program allows the county to keep a tight control on the cards by requiring a purchase order with each transaction. It also gives the purchasing agent a simple method to review the billing statement by name, department, date or item purchased.
The Best Way to Go
The Comptroller Web site includes a section called Textravel where local governments can find travel forms and rules.
Best practice travel procedures for local governments include:
- Set policies and procedures for reimbursement of travel expenses;
- Ensure employee compliance.
- Train employees on procedures and policies.
- Use TPASS travel contracts to assist in managing travel expenses.
- Centralize control of travel or designate travel agency.
- Develop process for approval of travel requests.
- Establish timetable for reimbursements. Requests must be submitted within 60 days from date of expenditure. Exceptions require approval of the appropriate official.
- Review travel expense reports for cost effectiveness, accuracy and reasonableness including accurate coding of transactions;
- Require original receipts and other supporting documentation. Detailed bills can be required for meals.
- Compare signed Missing Receipt Affidavits (for hotels, rental cars and airlines) where applicable. Document the expense, who incurred it, where and when it occurred, and why the business purpose qualifies as a local government expense.
- Prohibit travelers from billing for first class tickets. Travelers must obtain the lowest airfare available;
- Grant only travel advance requests that are necessary and reasonable.
- Review and reconcile detailed reports monthly.