GSA inspector general dings e-travel system for high costs and poor design

Agency says E-Gov Travel Service 2.0 will address many concerns found in audit.

Auditors say the General Services Administration's e-travel system still suffers from high costs and a poor design, but the agency could soon deploy a new system with improved functionality and lower costs.

In a seminannual report to Congress released on June 2, GSA's inspector general reported E2 Solutions, one of three travel management systems under the E-Gov Travel Service initiative, should better monitor costs, define performance metrics and address customer concerns about difficult and time-consuming system navigation.

The underlying audit, published this spring, isn't the first time concerns have been raised about the agency's E-Gov Travel Service. Last fall, the inspector general concluded E2 inadequately addressed security risks, and overhead costs were too high.

In February, GSA requested innovative ideas from the public to improve the travel system. The agency initially planned to offer a $25,000 prize for the best strategy but canceled the contest several days later, saying it needed to conduct more research.

The challenges with e-travel lie in addressing requirements for financial reporting to Congress, protecting individuals' personal information and government records, and filing travel reports, said Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer for the consulting firm FedSources Inc. of McLean, Va.

GSA plans to modernize its e-travel system and in May issued a draft request for proposals for E-Gov Travel Service 2.0, which will merge trip planning, authorization, reservations, ticketing, fulfillment, expense reimbursement and travel management reporting. According to documents presented at a pre-solicitation conference for industry, the system is expected to lower costs by consolidating service providers, as well as improve data security, enhance usability and incorporate advanced technologies in green travel and mobile computing. The agency last week said a final RFP is expected in late July.