The National Park Service:

Actions Needed to Improve Travel Cost Management

GAO-03-354: Published: Feb 13, 2003. Publicly Released: Feb 13, 2003.

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Unable to obtain information on the National Park Service's (Park Service) travel costs to ensure that the agency is spending appropriated funds effectively and efficiently, the Congress asked GAO to assess the availability of travel cost information and provide certain travel cost information, such as the cost of foreign travel and for attending conferences, for the Park Service for each of the past 4 fiscal years.

The Park Service reported that it incurred from $39 million to $50 million, in inflation-adjusted dollars annually, on travel costs during the past 4 fiscal years, but it does not know its actual costs for foreign travel or the travel costs related to attending conferences because its does not routinely record this required information. The Federal Travel Regulation requires that agency travel accounting systems capture certain data, including travel type, such as foreign or domestic travel, and purpose, such as training or conference attendance. In addition, the Park Service requires that all vouchers for foreign travel be processed at its Accounting Operations Center, but this policy is not consistently followed. The current procedures for processing travel vouchers and recording travel costs make it difficult for the Park Service to report reliable travel data that are consistent with the Federal Travel Regulation. Officials at the Park Service told us that they are implementing a new travel management system that will track travel type and purpose. The system is expected to be operating throughout the agency by approximately September 2003. Reliable, detailed travel information that is consistent with the Federal Travel Regulation is critical so that the Park Service and the Congress can perform their respective roles and responsibilities with regard to efficient travel cost management.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In FY 2004, the National Park Service (NPS) as part of a Department of the Interior(DOI)-wide system change migrated to the Travel Manager System. Again in FY 2008, the NPS changed systems to Northrop Grumman's GovTrip, one of three system vendors approved by the General Services Administration's (GSA) E-Gov Travel Service. As part of its default settings, GovTrip requires information related to the trip including, type, locations, purpose, estimated amount, ect. that are required by the Federal Travel Regulation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should require the Director of the National Park Service to establish procedures for capturing travel data, including travel type and purpose, as required by the Federal Travel Regulation.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In FY 2004, the National Park Service (NPS) as part of the entire Department of the Interior (DOI) migrated to the Travel Manager System. In FY 2008, the NPS changed systems to Northrop Grumman's GovTrip, one of three vendors approved by General Services Administration?s (GSA) E-Gov Travel Service. GovTrip allows user agencies to have electronic communication between GovTrip and the agency's accounting records. When travel vouchers are processed and a payment is approved GovTrip will automatically update the accounting records an agency has setup. All travel (both foreign and domestic) processed through GovTrip is centrally and electronically processed for authorizations and payment vouchers. GovTrip provides the information needed to properly record, account for, and report travel-related obligations and disbursements. Also, embedded in GovTrip are certain reports that that agency officials can review. An official can review such foreign travel related items as flags for foreign travel (automatically generated when a non-US location is identified) and TDY location. GovTrip's ability to electronically link all travel with accounting records and its ability to run reports on numerous travel attributes satisfies the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should require the Director of the National Park Service to enforce existing Park Service foreign travel policy requiring all foreign travel vouchers to be processed electronically by the Accounting Operations Center to enable a complete and proper recording of foreign travel costs.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In FY 2004, the National Park Service (NPS) as part of the entire Department of the Interior (DOI) migrated to the Travel Manager System. In FY 2008, the NPS changed systems to Northrop Grumman's GovTrip, one of three vendors approved by General Services Administration's (GSA) E-Gov Travel Service. The GSA has under contract three web-based travel vendors available for use by government agencies. The Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) requires the use of a web-based travel system that adheres to regulations in the FTR. As a GSA-approved travel system, we concluded that the GovTrip travel system meets all the travel system design requirements of the Federal Travel Regulations.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should require the Director of the National Park Service to address the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program Travel System Requirements when designing and implementing the travel system scheduled for completion later this year as well as any future travel systems.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

 

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