Travel Audits & Exceptions
"The Comptroller of Public Accounts (Comptroller) is statutorily required to audit travel vouchers for compliance with TPASS's rules for contract travel services."
Below are the exceptions to utilizing contracts negotiated by the State Travel Management Program (STMP). These exceptions are a citation of the Texas Administrative Code §20.303 with STMP's clarification in italics (clarification does not supersede or alter the original rule). These exceptions apply only to the use of contract travel services and not specifically to reimbursement rates and policies as outlined in Textravel. Justifications related to reimbursement policies/guidelines must also be documented.
(a) This section provides exceptions to use of contract travel services. These exceptions apply to the use of any contract travel services. When travel services are obtained at a lower total cost than the cost of contract travel services, no reporting of exceptions is required. Exceptions must be documented only when the total cost is greater than contract travel services rates. Nothing in this section affects or alters the authority of the comptroller regarding travel reimbursement or audit agreements.
(This section is an introductory paragraph to the rule exceptions below.)
(b) Lower 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 fourteen day or other advanced reservations programs, promotional price reductions, or any method that provides a lower overall cost of travel.
When a non-contracted rate is lower than a contracted rate, no exception must be cited. When a non-contracted rate is higher than a contracted rate, but considering additional factors, the overall total cost to the state is lower, "Lower Total Cost to the State" must be documented. Agencies may consider travel time, additional lodging charges, etc. when determining a lower overall total cost.
- If a non-contracted airfare is $80 and the contracted airfare is $100, no exception is required.
- If a non-contracted airfare is $120 and the contracted airfare is $100, but the non-contracted 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/rate.
- For rental cars, total cost include the base rate, Loss/Damage Waiver protection, mileage charge, surcharges, and cost for comparable liability insurance protection.
- For hotels, the total includes cost of the guest room, without taxes; travel time to point of business location; transportation costs such as taxi or rental car; and/or parking fees.
(c) Unavailability of Contract Travel Services. The contract travel services are not available during the time or at the location necessary for the business purpose; or the contract travel service does not provide for the service required; or because the contractor is unable to provide the contract services due to a force majeure event.
- A contract airline 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 (e.g. a specific type of vehicle or lodging room).
- A contract rental car vendor is not available in an airport or specific city.
(d) 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.
- A contract vendor fails to provide an adequate amount of services required for a person with disabilities (e.g. the need to use a non-contract 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; or
- Accommodations may lack a reasonable amount of security or safety, and/or may present a health risk based on the state traveler's individual needs. This may include:
- the traveler requires a nonsmoking rental vehicle or hotel room that is not available from the contract vendor; or
- a traveler's use of a non-contract hotel if they perceive the contract property to be in an unsafe neighborhood or to have an undesirable clientele.)
(e) 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.
(f) In Travel Status. The traveler is in the course of travel and changes in scheduling render the use of contract travel services impractical or the appropriate travel services are not available. The traveler shall make reasonable efforts to secure rates equal to or lower than the contract travel service rates.
(g) Group Program. The traveler is using a group program wherein reservations were made through a required source to obtain a particular rate or service.
The traveler is attending a conference at a contract/non-contract hotel in which a specified rate must be used in conjunction with the conference. This exception applies when a contract hotel/rate is not utilized and does not relate to reimbursement limitations. Justifications for any rate increases above reimbursement allowances must also be approved/documented.
(h) Emergency Response. The traveler is responding to a public health or safety emergency situation.
(i) 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.