Procurement of Passenger Transportation Services for Official Government Travel

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1971-09-03.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                                              WASHINGPOPd.   D.


         Dear Mr. Begich:                                                                                     t
                Reference is made to your letter       of July 28, 1971, forwarding             a copy        3
         of a letter     from Mr. Ken Wien, Wright Alaskan Travel,           concerning the nonuse
         of travel     agencies.     You requested that the General-Accounting            Office    (GAO)
         undertake a study of its regulations         governing    the procurement of passenger
         transportation      services for official    Government
                                                       .._(.._^* ,   tr&e:Ji   particularly       that
         part concerning      the use of travel    agencies.

                 Section 2013, title     5, of the General Accounting Office Policy and
         Procedures Manual for Guidance of Federal Agencies provides             that official
         passenger transportation        services by air, bus, rail,   or water be procured
         directly     from carriers    and that travel   agencies not be utilized     to secure
         such transportation        (1) within the United States, Canada, or Mexico, (2) be-
         tween the United States and Canada or Mexico, (3) from the United States or
         its possessions to foreign          countries, or (4) between the United States and its
         possessions and between and within its possessions.

                A limited    use of travel      agencies is permitted      under certain    circumstances
         when authorized       by administrative      regulations  for travel within      foreign     coun-
         tries (except Canada and Mexico), between foreign               countries,    or from foreign
         countries     to the United States and its possessionss provided              no payment is
         made by the Government to a travel             agency in addition     to that which would
         have been properly        chargeable had the service been obtained directly              from
         the carrier(s)      involved.

                Our regulations  pertaining  to transportation    and travel  are constantly
         being reviewed and studied to provide agencies and carriers         with up-to-date
         uniform information    and guidance which will lead to improved traffic        procure-
         ment and management consistent     with good fiscal   practices.
:-/,r-          In 1966, in response to a request from the House Select Committee on " -.i.,
         Small Business, we made a detailed        study of our regulations    regarding   the
         use of travel    agencies by Government departments and agencies for the procure-
         ment of passenger transportation       services.    On the basis of our analysis of
         information    developed within GAO or furnished      to us by other Government agen-
         cies and by carrier      associations,  we concluded in our report      (B-103315, Octo-
         ber 17, 1966) that the restrictions        on the use of travel    agencies were legally,
         economically,    and administratively     sound. Most of the Government administra-
         tive offices    contacted shared that view and apparently        would not use travel
         agencies even if free to do so.

               One of the reasons for requiring       Government agencies to procure passenger
         transportation    services    directly from the carriers   is the availability of
         special discounts;      reduced fares, rates, and charges; and concessions granted
         by carriers    on Government travel.      These concessions are granted partly because

                                      50TH   ANNIVERS

carriers enjoy certain sales and administrative       economies by dealing    directly
with the Government at no promotional  expense.

       The Association of American Railroads     and the'Air  Transport     Association 3~~2.:.
over the years have adopted the position      that the fundamental      purpose of the
travel   agent, in the carriers'   view, is to promote and sell travel        and that
this purpose is not fulfilled    in the case of Government travel.          According
to the associations,   their arrangements do not provide      for the payment of
commissions on Government travel business.        Also the Air Transport      Associa-
tion has advised that "the airlines      have no intention   of agreeing to pay com-
missions for official   Government travel."

       In our opinion,  the conclusions   reached in our 1966 study continue to
be valid and are applicable     to current Government passenger transportation
procurements.     A copy of that report   (B-103315, October 17, 1966) is enclosed
for your information.

                                   t ,F&=~.~Comptroller  General
                                            of the United States


The Honorable Nick Begich
House of Representatives