DOT aims to make paper travel vouchers a memory

DOT aims to make paper travel vouchers a memory

By Susan M. Menke

GCN Staff

Beginning in January, federal travelers should expect to launch their browsers to process travel authorizations and vouchers using the Transportation Department's Travel and Expense Web-based System.

The department late last month issued a request for proposals for Web application service providers under a Federal Travel Regulation that mandates a governmentwide travel management system by year's end.

Transportation users will evaluate ASP bidders and test their services with help from the General Services Administration and the Health and Human Services Department.

Proposals and demonstrations of past performance are due Aug. 28. Within five days of the submissions, bidders must provide the federal testers with live Web access for the evaluations.

Susan Tollerson, the project manager at Transportation, said this month's deadline 'is long enough. We issued the request for information a year ago and have had a draft out for months.'

She said the department hasheld several conversations with potential bidders, such as Gelco Information Network Inc. of Eden Prairie, Minn.

The chosen browser service must reimburse travelers no later than 30 days after claim submissions. It must be capable of handling more than 1 million annual vouchers for federal travel, which is expected to top $8.8 billion by fiscal 2004. The maximum number of vouchers could reach 3 million, depending on the service's penetration in the government, Tollerson said.

User fees will apply on a tiered basis and will decline as volume increases. Tollerson said she could not estimate the potential contractual value of the service, which depends on how many agencies adopt it. After the first year of the seven-year contract, Transportation can renegotiate the tiered fees.

The chosen system must process standard, VIP, international, dollar-threshold and other types of travel over multiple legs of a trip. Because different types of travel have different approval hierarchies, individual agencies' systems administrators will have to set up approval routings for their organizations.

The service provider must maintain individual user profiles for travelers, governed by the Federal Privacy Act. The winning ASP must supply hot links to State Department and Defense Department sites and currency-conversion sites, as well as management information reports and user help facilities. Disabled federal users must have full access to all the services.

Agency systems administrators will set their own requirements for storing and archiving travel records, which must be accessible to their agencies' financial systems.

At least 40 percent of the travelers who use the service will be surveyed quarterly to rate their satisfaction levels. And Transportation officials will exercise control over any advertising that appears on the ASP's site.

The July 28 RFP can be found on the Web at www.eps.gov under 'FBO for Vendors.'

Tollerson predicted the benefits of a Web travel system would extend beyond easy access for all users. 'We'll have no more travel system servers to maintain ourselves,' she said.

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