Relocation expense tracking system operational

Agencies unable to afford a system for tracking relocation expenses can contract with a government business center.

A system for tracking agencies' relocation expenses is up and running at a government business center.

The Administrative Resource Center at the Treasury Department's Bureau of the Public Debt operates a Web-based system that automates expense management processes. The center provides relocation services to 19 agencies.

"Our goal is to provide a one-stop relocation service for smaller federal agencies and their employees," said Roger Burris, a relocation specialist at the center in Parkersburg, W.Va. "You can extract the [relocation information] any way you want or the way [the Office of Management and Budget] wants it to be extracted."

Currently, the center processes about 500 relocations each year, but Burris expects that number to increase. "We have nowhere to go but up," Burris said. "Our growth potential is very good."

The applications' creator, a Fairfax, Va.-based software company called mLINQS, expects to release an updated version in March that will include the ability to process international relocations. The bureau's resource center expects to implement the updated software this summer.

Burris said the center's focus is on smaller agencies with limited budgets that cannot afford the overhead of operating a relocation program. Through a contract with the business center, agencies pay a fee per relocation. The center's clients relocate anywhere from a few workers to more than 400 workers a year.

The government moves about 22,000 workers a year, and about 80 percent of the relocations are completed by just 10 percent of the agencies, according to Office of Management and Budget data.

The application automates federal rules on relocations and adheres to Federal Enterprise Architecture and eTravel Service standards. Per diem and standard mileage rates are automatically updated, as well as federal and state tax rates based on locations and travel dates.

Agencies are under pressure from OMB and lawmakers to gather employee relocation costs. A mandated biennial report compiled by the General Services Administration from agencies' relocation data contained information that was described as worthless by critics because the data was flawed and inaccurate.

To find out how much agencies spend moving workers, a Federal Travel Regulation rule proposal would require federal agencies to acquire a relocation management program by Sept. 30, 2005.

An advisory board made up of government and private industry representatives is preparing to recommend core changes to the Federal Travel Regulation's relocation rules. The board's next meeting is March 23.