State Department and USIA Ship Travel and Travel Advances

Gao ID: NSIAD-85-130 September 11, 1985

In response to a congressional request, GAO examined travel practices at the Department of State and the U.S. Information Agency (USIA) to determine whether they were in accordance with applicable laws and regulations and in the government's best interest.

GAO found that about 260 foreign service travelers used ship transportation during fiscal years 1982 through 1984 at a cost of $556,232 when air fares for the same travel would have cost about $160,047. Although the Foreign Affairs Manual encourages air travel, ship travel is authorized. GAO also found that both State and USIA had $13.6 million in outstanding travel advances, and accounts totalling at least $876,662 have been written off during 1984 and 1985. These delinquencies and write-offs have resulted from problems in accounting for, controlling, and monitoring travel advances. Although travelers are required to submit a travel reimbursement voucher and remit a refund within 30 days following travel, GAO found accounts that were outstanding for up to 7 years. In addition, GAO found that: (1) travel account records are of questionable accuracy because data are either missing or have not been entered into the computer system in a timely manner or have been miscoded; (2) although State and USIA have made efforts to correct travel advance accounts, many accounts remain delinquent; and (3) both agencies have insufficient staff to manage the travel work load. Finally, GAO found that: (1) travel claims lacked required justification and documentation; (2) travelers were reimbursed for averaged expenses when they should have been reimbursed for actual expenses; and (3) travelers often submitted late vouchers.


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