The General Services Administration will raise its travel-reimbursement rates for federal employees this year but plans to end its conference-lodging allowance, the agency announced last week.
Standard lodging rate for employees who travel for work will increase from $77 to $83 per day at the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1, while the allowance for meals and other expenses will remain unchanged at $46 per day.
The figures are 5 percent below the average daily rate of the market, according to a blog post from Anne Rung, head of GSA’s Office of Governmentwide Policy. The agency also plans to eliminate a conference-lodging allowance that authorized federal employees to spend 25 percent more for conferences.
The GSA came under fire last year after an inspector general’s report showed that the agency had spent lavishly on a Las Vegas conference that included a mind-reader, a clown and a $31,000 reception.
Other federal agencies have faced criticism over similar events. An audit released in June revealed that the Internal Revenue Service spent about $4 million on an Anaheim conference that involved plastic squirting fish and “Star Trek” parodies that cost at least $50,000 to produce.
The White House budget office issued a memo shortly after the GSA conference report directing all agencies to reduce travel spending by 30 percent.
Rung said in the blog post that the federal government has reduced overall travel spending by $2 billion since 2010, while GSA alone has trimmed its travel costs by $28 million. “We achieved this by revising our own internal travel and conference policies,” she said.
This year, the agency canceled all of its major conferences for 2013. Rungs said GSA is taking steps to further reduce travel spending with its City Pair program, which offers discounted airfare for federal workers. She estimated the initiative will save the government $2.2 billion annually.
Although GSA has raised the standard lodging rates for traveling feds, the agency named 29 locations that will no longer qualify for higher, “nonstandard” allowances, including Chesterfield County, Va., Hagerstown, Md., Salem, N.C., and Jacksonville, Fla.
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