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1600 Reimbursements

Travel Policy June 2014

Authorized travelers who use direct deposit for payroll will receive their travel reimbursements, via direct deposit, to the same account. When the traveler does not use direct deposit for payroll, the warrant is mailed to the traveler’s mail code or office physical address as indicated on the travel claim. If an authorized traveler uses the TexPay Debit Card for payroll, a warrant will be issued for the travel reimbursement as the TexPay Debit Card is “only” used for payroll.

Employees are required to wait 20 working days (not including weekends or holidays) after the submittal of a travel claim before inquiring on the status of their travel reimbursement claims. The objective is to reduce the number of inquiries to allow travel staff to focus on processing travel claims rather than researching the status of pending claims. Most travel claims pay within 20 working days, and any inquiries before that will only delay the process further. If an employee has direct deposit, the employee should check first with his or her bank.

The state Comptroller has advance notification available for travel reimbursements. To opt-in for Advance Payment Notification (APN), payees must first set up an account and submit either an uncashed warrant or direct deposit number for authentication in the Search State Payments Issued application. Payees manage their own APN options. After receiving an APN, they can go back to the application to securely access their payment details online.

For further information, go to the Comptroller of Public Accounts (FMX) webpage titled State Vendor Payment Resources.

1700 Overpayments

Travel Policy June 2014

An authorized traveler must reimburse DFPS for any overpayment of travel expenses, whether the error is the fault of the agency or the authorized traveler. An overpayment is defined as an authorized traveler’s receipt of a reimbursement that exceeds the limits established by law, or the amount of allowable travel expenses actually incurred. Any other travel claim submitted may be held until payment is received.

1800 Responsibilities

1810 Agency Head Responsibilities

Travel Policy June 2014

The DFPS commissioner is responsible for ensuring that policies and procedures are in place to allow employees and other authorized travelers to plan their travel for maximum economy and efficiency, and to be reimbursed only for travel that is clearly official state business.

1820 Manager and Supervisor Responsibilities

Travel Policy June 2014

Management is responsible for authorizing travel that is economical and efficient, and for ensuring that only authorized travel is reimbursed. Management is required to:

  •   eliminate unnecessary travel, either in-state or out-of-state;

  •   minimize the number of staff traveling both in-state and out-of-state;

  •   limit the number of staff attending conferences and training not required by HHS agencies, the federal or state government;

  •   ensure coordination of travel when two or more authorized travelers are going to the same location to conduct the same business;

  •   if public transportation is requested, ensure it is the most economical travel option available considering all relevant circumstances;

  •   verify travel trips through sign-in and sign-out sheets, shared Outlook folders, or other means in order to certify that travel claims are true, correct, and unpaid;

  •   ensure the appropriate travel claim forms are approved and completed as instructed through the Supervisor Travel Checklist portion of the Travel Reimbursement Claim (see 3700 Attachments Required);

  •   submit internal “Divisional” travel policies to the Director of Accounting for review and approval; and

  •   ensure that “Divisional” travel policies are enforced. This consists of monitoring for specific “Divisional” policy, and auditing the travel claim based on those specific policies prior to submitting to State Office. “Divisional” policy is defined as an agency approved internal policy implemented at the region, division, unit, or program area.

1830 Traveler’s Responsibilities

Travel Policy May 2015

Travelers are responsible for securing appropriate approvals to travel, ensuring their authorized travel is economical and efficient, and for following all policies and procedures. Travelers are required to:

  •   choose the most economical option available (such as using a personal car, sharing a ride, public transportation, or taxi instead of a rental car, and so on);

  •   receive appropriate pre-approvals as required before traveling;

  •   ensure coordination of travel when two or more authorized travelers from the same office are going to the same location to conduct the same business;

  •   submit travel claims and all supporting documentation within 90 days from the last date of travel;

  •   obtain pre-approval for travel through the Travel Authorization (TA) process in eTravel for all Out of State Travel and Public Transportation (airlines, rental car, and bus ticket reservations);

  •   utilize state contracted hotels, airlines, and rental car companies established by TPASS unless a cheaper alternative exists or another approved exception exists; and

  •   comply with all DFPS travel policies.

1840 Direct Bill Unit Responsibilities

Travel Policy June 2014

The Direct Bill Unit performs the following responsibilities:

  •   Reconcile all out-of-state and in-state air travel, car rental, and other public transportation charges by dates of travel, destination, and purpose of trip for vendors and charge card company invoices

  •   Manage state travel charge cards

  •   Oversee policy and procedures for central billing and direct billing and ensure they are consistently applied

  •   Make reservations for client bus travel

  •   Consult with and monitor the travel vendors regarding the specific needs for the agency

  •   Resolve situations that occur between the travel vendors and DFPS employees

1850 Travel Claims Unit Responsibilities

Travel Policy June 2014

The Travel Claims Unit performs the following responsibilities:

  •   Audit and reimbursement of all employee travel claims in a timely manner

  •   Collaborate in developing and overseeing travel policies and procedures specific to the agency

  •   Ensure all policy and procedures for travel reimbursement claims are fairly and consistently applied

  •   Assist employees with questions and problems regarding employees’ travel

1860 State Contracted Travel Agency Responsibilities

Travel Policy June 2014

The agents for the contracted travel agency will assist travelers by coordinating the traveler’s airline, hotel, and rental car, and by suggesting economical arrangements based on a given destination, intended arrival times, and any special accommodations needed.

1900 Using State Contractors

1910 Requirements for Use of State Contractors

Travel Policy June 2014

Travelers must use state contracted vendors for hotels, airlines, and rental cars established by TPASS, unless a less expensive alternative or another approved exception exists. See 1920 Exceptions to the Use of State Contractors for the approved exceptions and documentation requirements.

If a traveler uses a travel agency, it must be the contracted travel agency established by TPASS. DFPS uses NTS as its official state contracted travel agency.

The state travel charge card account must be used to get contracted airfare unless one of the approved exceptions exists. An employee may use a personal charge card that offers insurance benefits not available from the state’s contract, but reimbursement will be at the contract rate. An employee who uses a higher airfare must pay the difference.

The following are the state contractors from the Comptroller’s website:

Travel Agency (DFPS uses NTS)

Hotel Directory Listings

Airlines

Rental Cars

DFPS has specific Direct Bill links set up with the car rental vendors. See 2630 Rental Cars

1920 Exceptions to the Use of State Contractors

Travel Policy June 2014

When a state contractor is not used or the purchase of a travel service exceeds the contract rate, one of the approved exceptions must exist, and the exception must appear on the travel claim. Without the approved exception, the reimbursement is limited to the contracted rate, and the traveler must pay the difference.

Approved exceptions are listed below. The abbreviated wording (in bold) must be used on the claim.

Lower Total Cost to the State

State agencies may use any travel services obtained at a price lower than the contract travel services price. State agencies are encouraged to obtain lower priced travel services through the use of 14-day or other advanced reservations programs, promotional price reductions, or any method that provides a lower overall cost of travel.

When a noncontracted rate is lower than a contracted rate, no reporting of exception is required.

Use this approved exception when a noncontracted rate is higher than a contracted rate but, considering additional factors, the overall total cost to the state is lower. Travel time, additional lodging charges, and so on, may be considered when determining a lower overall total cost.

Examples

  •   If a noncontracted airfare is $80 and the contracted airfare is $100, no reporting of exception is required.

  •   If a noncontracted airfare is $120 and the contracted airfare is $100, but the noncontracted fare saves the traveler time and results in one less night of lodging, the overall cost to the state is lower. In this scenario, “Lower Total Cost to the State” must be documented along with a description of the factors considered.

Non-contract vendor rates available to the general public that result in a lower total cost, including travel time, to the entity is a valid exception that must be cited. However, it is not a valid exception if a non-contract vendor offers a lower or identical ("matched") rate only to the State of Texas, unless another exception already exists and is notated for non-utilization of a contract vendor or rate.

For rental cars, total cost includes the base rate, loss or damage waiver protection, mileage charge, surcharges, and cost for comparable liability insurance protection.

For hotels, the total cost includes the cost of the guest room, without taxes, travel time to point of business location, transportation costs such as taxi or rental car, and parking fees.

Unavailability of Contract Travel Services

This exception is used under the following circumstances:

  •   The contract travel services are not available during the time or at the location necessary for the business purpose

  •   The contract travel services do not provide for the service required

  •   The contractor is unable to provide the contract services due to a force majeure event

Examples

  •   A commercial carrier does not offer flight times or flights in a specific city-pair to meet the travel requirements.

  •   A contract vendor’s services are not available in a location that will reasonably allow the business requirements of the state traveler to be fulfilled.

  •   A contract vendor is unable to provide the required services because it is sold out or does not offer services in the city being visited (such as a specific type of vehicle or lodging room).

  •   A contract rental car vendor is not available in an airport or specific city.

Special Needs

The traveler’s health, safety, physical condition, or disability requires accommodations, including medical emergency or other necessary services, not available from contract travel service contractors.

Examples

  •   A contract vendor fails to provide an adequate amount of services required for a person with disabilities (such as the need to use a noncontract rental car vendor for van lifts; accommodations do not provide adequate ADA amenities).

  •   Accommodations have limited availability of medical emergency facilities or equipment that may be required by a state traveler or person under the state’s custody.

  •   Accommodations may lack a reasonable amount of security or safety, may present a health risk based on the state traveler’s individual needs, or both. This may include:

  •   the traveler requiring a nonsmoking rental vehicle or hotel room that is not available from the contract vendor; or

  •   a traveler’s use of a noncontract hotel if he or she perceives the contract property to be in an unsafe neighborhood or to have an undesirable clientele.

Custodians of Persons

The traveler has custody of a person pursuant to statute or court order, and the traveler is required to provide a degree of security and safety that is not available from contract travel service contractors.

In Travel Status

Changes in scheduling while the traveler is in the course of travel render the use of contract travel services impractical or the appropriate travel services are not available. The traveler must make reasonable efforts to secure rates equal to or lower than the contract travel service rates.

Group Program

The traveler is using a group program wherein reservations were made through a required source to obtain a particular rate or service.

Example

The traveler is attending a conference at a contract or noncontract hotel in which a specified rate must be used in conjunction with the conference.

Emergency Response

The traveler is responding to a public health or safety emergency situation.

Legally Required Attendance

The traveler is required by a court, administrative tribunal, or other entity to appear at a particular time and place without sufficient notice to obtain contract travel services.

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