You’re a Fed on the road. You’re driving through an unfamiliar town. It’s dark. You’ve got crucial meetings the next morning in another city. Something goes wrong with the rental car. It sputters to a stop.

But you’ve got your General Services Administration (GSA) SmartPay Travel Card app on your smartphone. Help is quickly on the way. The recently launched app is designed to take some of the worry out of official government travel, GSA officials said.

The app lets cardholders “manage their travel needs with the touch of a button,” said David Shea, director of GSA’s Center for Charge Card Management in a recent GSA Blog post. Federal employees on travel “will always have travel-related services at their fingertips,” he said.

Most importantly, Shea said, cardholders can immediately report a lost, stolen or non-working card via the app. “No more waiting to fire up the computer,” he said.

Services available through the app include travel emergency assistance, emergency medical referral help, prescription assistance, emergency legal referral, valuable-document delivery, emergency transportation assistance and an emergency messaging service. The app also contains tax-exempt information so that travelers will know when their business lodging and rental car costs are exempt from state sales tax, and if there are any forms that must be filled out.

Shea said that user feedback will be a key to the further development of the app. “We want to give cardholders as much helpful information as possible when they are in travel status,” he said. “We look forward to hearing from users about what they would like to see further developed with the app.”

The Travel Card App is designed primarily for use in the U.S. and is available for Apple iOS, Android and Blackberry devices. GSA is rolling out the new app at a time when GSA officials are pressing SmartPay customer agencies to make sure their users are meeting documentation and record-keeping requirements.

GSA’s new push on record-keeping follows a General Accountability Office audit last February that revealed “documentation issues” in the use of government purchase cards, including a finding that 22 percent of transactions governmentwide did not have complete documentation to substantiate the transactions’ approval process.

Shea, in a GSA SmartPay Bulletin issued in the wake of the GAO audit, said that the charge-card system “relies, in part, on reasonable, complete documentation practices consistent with the streamlined business processes it embodies.”

Purchase cards and applications designed to improve their use, such as the new travel app, are critical to agile government. Shea said the cards “provide tremendous agility to the government to quickly meet mission requirements using streamlined business processes which reduce processing costs and saves money.”

Shea urged agency card managers and their users to familiarize themselves and keep up with National Archives and Records Administration financial management and reporting requirements, which includes recent changes that affect record retention of documents associated with the SmartPay program. As a best practice, GSA officials recommend that agency card managers “periodically remind” users—at least once a year, at a minimum—to obtain, maintain and retain complete documentation in accordance with agency procedures.

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MeriTalk Staff