Government, Heal Thyself

I was pleased to read in The Wall Street Journal that Congress took some action to reform or tighten its existing rules on overseas travel for government business. The new rules -- the first significant changes in more than 30 years -- were proposed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and they're a lot stricter than current guidelines.

For one, lawmakers will now be required to provide receipts for some (read on) of their travel expenses, and they will no longer be permitted to book business class for flights on commercial airlines under 14 hours. They're also now prohibited from taking aides along on overseas trips. These toughened rules are a welcome sign that good travel and strategic meetings management are not just expected of the private sector -- especially companies receiving government TARP financial assistance. Best practices like these establish greater accountability and visibility over spend and benefit your organization, whether you're a Congressman or a CFO.  

But just as travel, meetings and procurement executives are continually challenged to improve management of expenditures and reduce costs, so, too, should government policymakers continue to examine practices and strengthen T&E and meetings policies. According to Ms. Pelosi's new rules, lawmakers are still not required to disclose how much it costs to fly on business-class planes operated by the Air Force. The Wall Street Journal says that totaled at least $120 million in 2008 and 2009. Now we all understand that the security and confidentiality of certain government officials circumvent them from taking commercial aircraft, but where are the guidelines and policies that outline who qualifies for military transport and who doesn’t?  Better yet, is someone conducting random audits on all of these travel expenses and tracking policy compliance?

While strong rules and policy are crucial to travel and meetings management, so is enforcement and the measurement of compliance. Countless private-sector companies have discovered the power of tracking and reporting on compliance -- not just for controlling costs and spotting maverick spenders, but also because it helps them plan strategies to prevent future misspending.  

Congratulations to Congress for embracing tighter travel policies and cost-control -- a decision that positively affects all U.S. taxpayers! If you want to find, eliminate, track and prevent wasteful spending in your organization, take a look at this StarCite whitepaper on best practices for uncovering your hidden meetings spend.

Kevin Iwamoto is vice president of enterprise strategy at StarCite. This post is syndicated from his blog, Strategic Meetings Management