GSA Squeezes SmartPay Charge Card
The SmartPay program has more than 2.5 million card holders across the government. There are no comprehensive government wide travel spending numbers. Office of Management and Budget spokeswoman, Ari Isaacman Astles, said that the administration attributes the decline to aggressive steps to cut conference spending, noting that the administration has installed strict controls to make sure travel funding is spent wisely.
Citing the travel restrictions in response to an April 2012 inspector general report that detailed a 2010 General Services Administration conference costing $823,000 and forcing out the agency’s top leaders, agencies have lowered their travel spending by $2 billion since the new restrictions went into effect.
In May 2012, agencies were directed to reduce travel spending by 30% compared with 2010 levels and to maintain those levels through 2016. They must report annually on any conference spending in excess of $100,000, and employees must seek senior management approval for conference spending.
Astles said “… each agency needs to focus… on mission-critical activities… ensure any related spending best serves the American people…”
Among the cutbacks noted are:
- The Agriculture Department reduced its spending by $125 million in fiscal 2012 by cutting unneeded trips. The agency is on track to reduce its total travel spending by $90 million in 2013 compared with 2010 levels
- The Drug Enforcement Agency instituted a mandatory policy requiring agencies to use the lowest available airfare for all traffic, saving $6.5 million in fiscal 2012
- The Interior Department has increased the use of teleconferencing, videoconferencing and webinars to reduce the need for employee travel, saving $30 million on travel since the policies were implemented
- The General Services Administration spending fell 62% from more than $8 million through July of fiscal 2012 to only $3 million so far in 2013
- According to GSA spokeswoman Mafara Hobson, the agency has eliminated nearly 50 conferences including cancelling its annual Training Conference and Expo, as well as FedForum and Fed Fleet in 2013, saving the agency $28 million compared with 2010 levels.
One of the few agencies to report an increase in spending was the Small Business Administration, with spending rising from $11 million through July of fiscal 2012 to $22 million so far in fiscal 2013. Spokeswoman Emily Cain said the increase is because of the “unprecedented level of travel” the agency has undertaken in response to natural disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy, the third largest natural disaster in U.S. history for the agency.
Non-disaster-related travel fell from $6.5 million in fiscal 2012 to $3.4 million so far in fiscal 2013, says the report. Other agencies with large cuts in travel spending include:
- The Defense Department saw a 19% decline from almost $4.5 billion through July of fiscal 2012 to $3.6 billion through July of fiscal 2013
- The Social Security Administration cutting travel spending by 35% from $13.2 million through July of fiscal 2012 to $8.6 million through July of fiscal 2013
- The Transportation Department saw an 18% drop in travel spending from $139 million through July 2012 to $113 million through July 2013.
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