Agencies' data gaps hinder GSA travel program analysis
- By Matthew Weigelt
- Jan 23, 2012
Other departments are making it tough for the General Services Administration to test whether its governmentwide travel program is meeting its full potential, according to a new report.
Officials in GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service don’t have access to data from those departments, data GSA needs to fully analyze the City Pair program.
GSA provides discounted airline tickets for federal employees on official business. In fiscal 2012, the government spent nearly $3 billion on air travel, according to the GSA inspector general’s report from Jan. 20.
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Based on the IG’s audit, FAS could improve City Pair to potentially save an additional $35.2 million. However, one of several problems is a lack of comprehensive data.
“Without comprehensive governmentwide travel information and subsequent data analyses, FAS program officials are inhibited in their ability to draw conclusions about the program’s strengths and weaknesses and to make sound business decisions regarding the travel program,” the IG's report reads.
The IG found at least five information sources FAS can access to analyze its program, but there are limitations.
For instance, the Travel Management Information Service (MIS) database system and GSA’s SmartPay program are dependent on other agencies. Officials have to voluntarily submit their travel information into the systems, and the systems are not complete if agencies don’t turn in their information. Meanwhile, the Defense Department, which makes up 70 percent of total government travel, chooses not to participate in MIS.
Another potential spot for information, E-gov Travel Service (ETS) provides travel management services, such as online booking engine, voucher processing and travel management center support. However, ETS excludes data from the biggest spender on air travel. DOD uses its own Defense Travel System.
In addition, FAS has limited access to employees' travel vouchers within its own organization due to privacy concerns.
“Having a single repository containing governmentwide reservation, ticket issuance, and post ticket issuance information is key to managing the City Pair Program,” the IG wrote.
But FAS has another options, according to the report. Officials could better manage the program throughout the year by watching market trends, assessing travel behavior or developing market strategies.
Beyond the data aspect, the IG recommends that FAS officials analyze travel benefits, increase competition between airlines, and include baggage fees when evaluating bids.
FAS officials said they were planning to address the IG's recommendations.
Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.