GSA clarifies conference rules in advance of Expo

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It was a given that travel for General Services Administration employees was going to become much more closely scrutinized following news of extravagant spending on the agency’s 2010 Western Regions Conference. Now a document reveals just what kind of travel will be allowed.

According to an April memo from GSA acting commissioner Dan Tangherlini and reports Thursday by Federal News Radio, the agency has suspended all travel for agency employees through the end of fiscal 2012 for “internal GSA meetings, trainings, conferences, seminars, leadership or management events, etc.” The suspension does, however, come with exceptions.

Travel to approved conferences for external audiences still is allowed, as well as travel for the purpose of performing the routine mission functions of GSA. Management will determine which employees are essential to the performance of the relevant function.

In addition, travel will be permitted for routine management meetings, provided that other options such as teleconferencing have been exhausted, according to Federal News Radio. Training-related travel for essential job skills will be allowed, as will travel to conferences for the purpose of expanding services or reaching out to clients, though these requests must be approved by several levels of management before any procurement activity can take place.

These new conference policies will be tested as early as next week, when employees attend the annual GSA Expo in San Antonio. Federal News Radio reports as many as 50 Federal Acquisition Service employees have been cut from the conference’s travel budget since the scandal. More than 35 other GSA conferences have been cut. Agency participation in vendor events such as dinners also may be cut by half.

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