Monday, July 07, 2008

FLASHBACK: State Travel Operational Review Report

We hope that everyone had a wonderful 4th of July holiday weekend!

Following up on last week's Operational Review Report Flashback on the Commonwealth's Vehicle Fleet, today we wanted to re-post the report from the State Travel Operational Review Team.

The Travel Operational Review Team was developed to examine Virginia government travel practices and develop recommendations for improved efficiency and ways to reduce costs.

Between July 2002 and December 2006, Virginia spent over $935 million of travel and related expenses. Almost one billion dollars was spent on travel over that time period. Of that, Virginia’s colleges and universities led the way by spending more than $368 million.

The Operational Review Team found numerous areas where money can be saved. A 10 percent decrease in travel related spending could have saved more than 90 million dollars over that time period.

Top Ten Agencies for Travel Expenditures

  • Colleges and Universities $368,106,226
  • Department of Medical Assistance Services $263,754,940
  • Circuit Courts $16,592,673
  • Department of State Police $12,109,815
  • Department of Rehabilitative Services $11,283,478
  • Department of Social Services $11,116,890
  • State Corporation Commission $8,803,189
  • Department of Juvenile Justice $8,552,148
  • Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services $6,744,487
  • Department of Motor Vehicles $6,220,199

General Cost Drivers

  • Increases in allowed meals, lodging, per diem, and mileage reimbursements for employees driving personal vehicles.
  • Training requirements and certifications
  • Agency missions—visiting restaurants or nursing homes to name two examples
  • Lack of centralized management practices for travel.

Best Practice Recommendations

  • Statewide consistency in travel management and limits on travel spending
  • No receipts required beyond hotel receipts; designed to save time and dollars in the handling of paperwork
  • Enterprise contract. Reduces number of vehicle fleet and associated maintenance costs.
  • Require vehicle transportation calculations. Prior to each trip, determine whether paying mileage reimbursement for personal vehicle of renting vehicle is more cost effective.

Private Sector Travel Practices

  • Use a travel management agency to arrange all travel
  • Employees follow guidelines for meals, lodging, etc.
  • Negotiate rates with rental car companies, airlines, and hotels

Overall Recommendations from the Report

  • Automated the Travel Reimbursement Process. Currently, the travel reimbursement process is a manual one. The traveler may key travel information into the voucher but it must be printed, signed by the traveler and supervisor and a hard copy must be forwarded to the accounting department for processing. Automating the travel process would allow a person to make reservations, book tickets on common carriers, arrange for vehicle transportation on-line and when the process was completed, key the data into the travel voucher which would be approved and processed on- line, thereby eliminating paperwork and accounting entries.
  • Include travel on the Governor’s Score Card. The Governor has developed a scorecard where certain aspects of government are tracked. The committee suggests that statewide travel compliance be included in this process as its own line item and not as part of other expenditures reported to create more public awareness and agency sensitivity to these expenditures.
  • Re-evaluate travel spending after implementation of the new statewide accounting system. One of the limiting factors for the committee was the inability to obtain drill downs into the various expenditures. The current accounting system, CARS (Commonwealth Accounting and Reimbursement System) does not permit drill downs. There is a new system scheduled for implementation in 2010. The Committee suggests that after this implementation, a further review of travel costs with the enhanced ability to drill down through the data to analyze who, when, where, and why travel dollars are spent.
  • Expand the use of Computer Based Training modules for training state employees. Training is presently obtained by agencies, colleges and universities in many ways from multiple resources. Designing and developing a statewide contract with a computer based training company or companies to train employees would allow agencies to save money and time by allowing employees to train at their desks or at home, rather than traveling to another location. The committee also suggests exploring the use of more teleconferencing facilities versus physical travel to training destinations.
  • Increase the use of Teleconferencing for training. VDOT has used teleconferencing to train for several years and this innovation saved thousands of dollars in training travel. While VITA has not worked on the integration of teleconferencing equipment for all agencies to a universal one, the committee suggests that this project be given a higher priority so agencies could save more dollars teleconferencing training and other business processes.
  • Establish stricter limitations on conference travel. One of the largest uses of state travel money is for training and conference travel as a whole. These costs represented some of the largest travel expenditures by line item. They totaled twenty-three percent or $221,484,167.34 of the $935,287,354.89 of the dollars spent in all of the travel categories for the period reviewed. Does an agency really need to send five people to a conference? The problem is that it is difficult to quantify “necessary”. Currently, there is a policy and procedure limiting the number of conferences or the number of people who may attend conferences. Conferences do not necessarily include training, as they are frequently more of a networking opportunity. Stricter limitations and greater scrutiny on the frequency and number of persons attending conferences would save travel dollars.
  • Implement a mandatory statewide travel contract. There are some agencies, colleges and universities that have implemented a travel contract with one firm making travel arrangements. Some institutions also have contracts with more than one firm, which further dilutes the bargaining strength of the Commonwealth. The majority of agencies have no travel contract but negotiate every trip individually. It would reduce costs for lodging and transportation if the state would use its statewide negotiating power to obtain one contract with a firm to manage all travel. This would also create a centralized financial reporting system that would facilitate better financial management of these costs.
  • Market DGS’ Enterprise Car Rental program to all agencies. There are several features in the contract that were not listed in the travel policy. One of these features is the delivery clause in the contract. A traveler may arrange to travel in a state car and the company will deliver the state car to the site. Marketing the contract’s special features would enhance its use by other agencies and reduce the cost of travel by car.
  • Revisit the Enterprise contract in 18-24 months to determine its cost effectiveness. The Enterprise contract had only been in use for a few months when the committee reviewed the process. There has not been sufficient time to determine the cost effectiveness of the contract and consequently, it should be reviewed in 18-24 months.
  • Codify allowed training travel in the appropriations act or implement an executive order to limit this type of travel and require a 10% decrease in spending across all agencies.

Thank you to the Travel Operational Review Team for their work and the above findings. Team members include Delegate Scott Ligamfelter, Senator Brandon Bell, June Kimbriel of the Department of Corrections (Team Coordinator), Debbie Madison of the Department of Corrections, Charlotte Mary of the Senate Clerk’s Office, Seward McGhee of the Department of Correctional Education, Ray Pethtel of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, Liza Robison of the Department of General Services, Wendell Vest of Virginia Tech, John Wszelaki of the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.


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