Department of Energy

Spending a Quarter to Save A Dime - discontinuing post allowance

Personnel "permanently" assigned overseas receive a "post allowance" (COLA under Title 5 U.S.C. 5924 reimburse for goods/services more expensive than in DC) Every time an employee goes on leave or TDY, there is a process to discontinue the post allowance - and then to re-establish it when the person returns to post. We are spending a quarter to save a dime. The theory is that the government should not pay “double”, i.e. paying per diem for TDY travel while an employee is also receiving a post allowance at the same time. In practice, there are a significant amount of transactions resulting in higher administrative costs and possibility for errors. For example: once the person goes on travel, one of our staff monitors the travel and prepares the documents for signature. Once signed here, it is sent to our Front Office and signed by a DAS. We then retrieve the document and submit it to Payroll, where another team of people processes it. And we do the entire process again to re-establish post allowance. The sheer number of transactions involved for each employee increases the likelihood of a payroll mistake. It is also probably that across the entire USG a not insignificant number of trips are simply not captured. We need to eliminate the large number of transactions without increasing the amount paid to reimburse employees.

A Six Sigma review process would identify the magnitude of the issue. A financial analysis would then indicate the total amount the USG “saves” by discontinuing and re-establishing post allowance. The key is that this total should then be an integral part of the calculations for determining post allowance itself. We should theoretically be able to eliminate the transaction entirely and capture the savings in an adjusted and comparatively lower post allowance. Easier for everyone to understand, much easier and less inexpensive to administer, less chance of some travelers incorrectly receiving both TDY per diem and post allowance.

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Idea No. 638