20. Travel Policy and Procedure
20.1 Authority – Effective April 1, 2009, Revised December 1, 2009, costs incurred by authorized employees of the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, Conservation Agency and contractors traveling on business for and on behalf of the West Virginia Department of Agriculture or Conservation Agency shall be reimbursed in accordance with the following policies and procedures. These procedures are designed to ensure compliance and fairness in the application and administration of travel expense reimbursement. An employee traveling on Department/Agency business pursuant to these policies and procedures is expected to exercise the care and judgment of a prudent person traveling for personal reasons. Travel on business must be conducted at a minimum cost for achieving success of the mission. All travel expenditures shall be within budgetary allowance for the Division/Agency for which the trip is taken.
20.2 Compliance – It is the traveling individual’s primary responsibility to comply with these policies and procedures and the responsibility of the person signing the employee travel expense reimbursement form authorizing payment to ensure compliance with these procedures.
20.3 Clarification – All questions or inquiries regarding these policies and procedures should be directed to the Administrative Services Division.
20.4 Conflict of Interest – No employee of the Department of Agriculture or Conservation Agency shall receive reimbursement from a third party or receive prepayment of expenses by a third party while conducting business on behalf of the Department or Agency, without the prior written approval of the Commissioner/Chairman.
20.5 Headquarters – For purposes of travel reimbursement, each employee of the West Virginia Department of Agriculture or Conservation Agency shall have a designated workplace as their official headquarters. The employee’s designated headquarters will be documented on the Personnel Action Request or Request for Temporary Help forms. For most employees, the official headquarters will be the Gus R. Douglass Agricultural Center at Guthrie. An employee’s home may be officially designated as an employee’s headquarters if necessary because of the employee’s job duties and/or physical location of residence. When completing a travel reimbursement request, the employee should use the name of the physical location of their headquarters, not the name of the facility (for example, “Guthrie” should be used instead of the GRD Agricultural Center at Guthrie). In no case will commuting between an employee’s residence and headquarters be allowed as a cause for reimbursement without specific written authorization from the Commissioner/Chairman or his designee. Specific exception to this will occur where the employee is required to return to headquarters from home after completing a normal day’s work schedule or is called out on what is normally a non-work day or holiday for that employee.
20.5.a. Headquarters Single Location – Headquarters shall not be multiple stations. Personnel who work multiple stations which necessitate automobile travel are in travel status from the moment of departure from their official headquarters until return to official headquarters. If an employee does not return to the headquarters station at the end of a day or a trip, the employee shall not be eligible for mileage on their personal car in excess of the mileage to return to official headquarters.
20.5.b. Transfer/Relocation of Assignment – When an employee’s official headquarters is changed and requires the relocation of the employee’s residence, the employee may be allowed up to thirty (30) calendar days travel expenses to commute, for purposes of conducting the business of the Department or Agency, from their old residence location to their new headquarters location. This provision does not apply to voluntary relocation. If the employee elects not to change their residence, the employee shall not be allowed expenses related to the change in headquarters after the 30 calendar day period.
20.6 Settlement Form – The Travel Expense Account Settlement form issued by the Administrative Services Division will be used for the settlement and reimbursement for all travel expenses. The form must record the detail of expenses incurred by day, and will be summarized by day and by category as provided for on the form. Employees must complete all required sections of the form and sign in blue ink before the State Auditor’s Office will consider it valid.
20.6.a. Documentation – Original itemized receipts should, if at all possible, accompany the Travel Expense Account Settlement forms. Receipts are required for the following expenditures: lodging, air or rail transportation, rental car and event registration. Receipts should be provided for the following if available: taxi/shuttle transportation, parking, tolls (excluding West Virginia Turnpike tolls) and baggage handling. If the required original documents are not available, a certified copy must be submitted. The certification on each document submitted for reimbursement must read as follows:
“I certify that this is an original invoice and that payment has not been received.”
This certification must be completed once each by: the employee, employee’s supervisor or employee’s Division Director/Executive Director and the Department’s Chief Financial Officer or the Commissioner/Chairman. (NOTE: The submission of documents requiring certification as originals will delay reimbursement.)
20.6.b. Verification/Approval – All Travel Expense Account Settlement forms will be signed by the employee and approved by the Commissioner, Deputy Commissioner, Division Director/Executive Director or their designee. No employee, except the Commissioner of Agriculture/Chairman Conservation Committee, may approve the employee’s own expense account form. The approval of expense accounts is more than a formality and should be treated with due seriousness. Approval of an expense account indicates that the expenses submitted for reimbursement have been reviewed and found to comply with Department/Agency policies regarding authorized travel expenses.
20.6.c. Timely Submission – Employees shall submit all requests for reimbursement of travel expenses, including receipts, to their approving official, i.e. Division Director/Executive Director at least once a month. The only exception to this is for reimbursement requests that total less that $50.00. These minimal reimbursements of $50.00 or less should be submitted only after 30 days have elapsed since the last date of travel. It is the responsibility of the approving official to review and approve employee’s expense accounts within five (5) business days of receipt and forward to the Administrative Services Division, which will submit the documents to the appropriate executive agencies of State government within three (3) business days to complete the process. Travel expenses incurred during the month of June must be submitted within ten (10) business days of the last date of travel.
20.6.d. Commissioner’s/Chairman’s Approval – Prior written permission must be received from the Commissioner of Agriculture/Chairman Conservation Committee, or his designee, as required for Out-of-State travel. The Out-of-State Travel Request form will be designated by the Administrative Services Division.
20.7 Meal Allowance
20.7.a. In-State Meal Allowance – Reimbursement will be made for meals while absent from official headquarters on overnight status with a maximum of thirty dollars ($30) per day for travel within the State of West Virginia where the distance from the official headquarters is greater than twenty-five miles. Meals are allowed when lodging is listed as “gratis” or “no charge”.
20.7.b. In-State Allocation – The following allocations are to be used in determining the amount of reimbursement to employees traveling in-state on State business when the full meal allowance cannot be claimed.
1) In-State travel: Breakfast - $6.00, Lunch - $9.00, and Dinner - $15.00.
(Daily total cannot exceed $30.00)
20.7.c. Out-of-State Meal Allowance – Reimbursement will be made for meals while absent from official headquarters on overnight status, with a maximum of sixty dollars ($60) per day. Meals are allowed when lodging is “gratis” or “no charge”.
1) Out-of-State Allocation – Breakfast - $12.00; Lunch - $18.00 and Dinner - $30.00.
(Daily total cannot exceed $60.00)
Time Frames for Meal Allowance - On overnight trips, when an employee departs from official headquarters before their normal start time, they are entitled to a full meal allowance. When they depart before their normal lunch period, they are entitled to lunch and dinner allowances. When they depart before their normal ending time, they are entitled to a dinner allowance.
On overnight trips, when an employee returns to their official headquarters before their normal lunch period, they are entitled to a breakfast meal allowance. When they arrive after their normal lunch period, they are entitled to a breakfast and lunch allowance. When they arrive after their normal ending time or have worked at least two hours in excess of a normal work day, they are entitled to a full meal allowance. Arrival and departure times of travel and the employee’s work schedule must be stated on the Travel Expense Account Settlement form.
When overnight travel occurs outside the normal workweek, i.e. Saturday or Sunday, it will be considered the same as if it had occurred within the normal workweek for meal reimbursement calculations.
20.7.d. For both In-State and Out-of-State travel, when meals are provided gratis or are included in registration fees, the employee's maximum daily rate shall be reduced by the appropriate amount according to the schedule established in 20.7.b. and 20.7.c.
20.7.f. Exceptions to Established Rates – Under extenuating circumstances, an exception to the established rates may be granted in writing by the Commissioner/ Chairman or his designee.
20.7.g. Exception to Overnight Status Meal Allowance Provisions – An employee may be entitled to an evening meal allowance not to exceed $15.00 in the following instances: The employee is required to be on duty at least two (2) hours in excess of their “normal work day”, while the employee is working at the direction of the Commissioner to fulfill legislative mandates and/or mandates as prescribed by law or the employee is working in an emergency situation or a situation deemed as extenuating and necessary by the Commissioner under his authority as defined in Chapter 19 and the WVDA Administrative Policies and Procedures, recognizing that the Commissioner is authorized by law to promulgate rules governing the operations and employees of the WV Department of Agriculture. In accordance with IRS regulations, single day travel meal allowance will be reported as taxable income to the employee and included in their W-2 earnings.
20.7.h. Meals as Part of an Official Meeting – Written approval must be secured from the Commissioner/Chairman or designee when meals are an integral part of an official meeting, and/or in excess of the allowable reimbursement. A meal is considered an integral part of a meeting when: (1) the meeting continues throughout mealtime(s) or has no scheduled break for a meal in its agenda; (2) there are lectures, presentations or other activities directly related to the purpose of the meeting carried out during the mealtime(s); (3) the employee's duties or participation in the meeting require the employee to be present or participating in the meeting throughout mealtime(s); or (4) the location of the meeting, length of mealtime break or other factors make it extremely difficult or prohibitive to find meals at an alternate location away from the meeting location. Documentation including the Commissioner’s/ Chairman’s written approval, cost and necessity of the meeting meal must be provided with other reimbursement documentation.
20.8 Lodging – Employees traveling on State business will be reimbursed an amount equal to their actual cost of lodging as shown on the lodging receipt. Employees are directed to adhere to the guidelines established and published by WVDA on selection of lodging. This publication lists preferred lodging and the order of contact for making lodging arrangements for locations throughout the State. Consideration of other factors, i.e. safety and efficiency of location is recommended. Using good judgment and fiscal prudence, final selection of accommodations is at the discretion of the employee.
20.8.a. Personal Services – Reimbursement shall not be allowed for personal services such as laundry, valet, entertainment, refrigerator, use of a safe for valuables, etc. Charges of this nature may be permitted by the Commissioner/Chairman or designee when circumstances require due to the nature of travel assignment, duration, medical necessity, etc. Permission to claim any of these charges for reimbursement must be given in writing by the Commissioner/Chairman or designee, and attached to the employee’s receipts and travel reimbursement request.
20.8.b. Double Occupancy – In the case of double occupancy, where one of the occupants is not on State business, hotel reimbursement will be on the basis of the least expensive available single rate. This information must be indicated on the lodging receipt. In the case of double occupancy, where both occupants are on State business, only one occupant can legally claim reimbursement for the cost of the room.
20.8.c. Lodging charges incurred due to the negligence of the traveler(s) to notify the hotel/motel of cancellation, late check-in, etc., may be considered the personal expense of the traveler and as such, will not be reimbursed.
20.9.a. Airline or Common Carrier – Reimbursement will be made for the actual cost of bus, rail or air coach travel or other common carrier as evidenced by receipted bills which must accompany the employee expense report. Employees are required to travel at economy fares when available. If a change in the cost of airfare is incurred, the charge is reimbursable if the traveler is directed by the appropriate spending unit officer to change his/her travel plans, or if other extenuating circumstances arise. Increased or extra charges incurred due to the traveler's negligence or personal preference may be considered a personal expense of the traveler and as such, will not be reimbursed. Additional fees charged by the airline such as, overweight, oversized and/or additional bags checked, ticket surcharges, etc. will be reimbursed to the employee.
20.9.b. Purchasing Tickets – Tickets for air or rail transportation may be arranged by contacting the Statewide contract vendor and asking for the State Agent. This should guarantee that the ticket is purchased at the lowest price available. However, the Division/Agency has the discretion of assigning an employee to make these arrangements using other resources such as discounted internet sites to obtain a lower cost ticket. A note of caution, when using a discounted internet site, you do not have the flexibility of changing your travel arrangements; these prices are generally “as is”. Flight protection fees for tickets purchased on the internet will be reimbursed to the traveler with Executive approval on the Out-of-State Travel request form. Employees may use their State Travel Card, a personal credit card, or contact the Administrative Services Division to have the charge placed on the Department of Agriculture’s Travel Card.
20.9.b.1 Pre-Travel Ticket Reimbursement – In order to take advantage of the lower cost of advance purchase tickets, the employee may submit an expense account reimbursement request before the first date of travel for the airline ticket ONLY and only if it is 15 calendar days OR MORE before the first date of travel. To qualify for this pre-travel reimbursement, the ticket must be PURCHASED between 30 and 180 days prior to the beginning date of the first date of business travel. When the traveler’s ticket has been issued electronically, the itinerary may be submitted for pre-travel ticket reimbursement. (Submitting an itinerary for the pre-travel ticket reimbursement request applies ONLY to electronically issued tickets.)
20.9.c. Personal Credit Cards – In accordance State law, employees are now allowed to use frequent traveler points for personal use. Although there is still the general prohibition against use of office for private gain, public officials and public employees may use bonus points acquired through participation in frequent traveler programs while traveling on official government business. Provided, that the official’s or employee’s participation in such program, or acquisition of such points, does not result in additional cost to the State.
20.9.d. Personal Vehicle – The reimbursement rate for the use of the employee’s personal vehicle in connection with State business will be established by memorandum released by the Commissioner of Agriculture/Chairman Conservation Committee or designee. Such reimbursement rate shall apply for travel between the employee’s official headquarters and the official destination. There will be no reimbursement of expense for commuting purposes between the employee’s home and established headquarters. An exception to this is when an employee is called out to work after the completion of a work day or required to travel on a day that is a non-work day or holiday for that employee. Mileage claimed for reimbursement must be stated in whole numbers. Tenths of a mile (.x) are to be rounded using standard rounding, i.e. one through four tenths are rounded down and five through nine tenths are rounded up to the nearest whole number.
20.9.d.1. Employees will be reimbursed for costs incurred to wash their State or personal vehicle as required for strict adherence to bio-security rules.
20.9.e. Commercial Rental Vehicles – Automobile rental will be reimbursable to employees when used in conjunction with common carrier travel, or when a State owned or privately owned vehicle is not available. In order to receive reimbursement, all In-State commercial rental vehicle requests are to be submitted on the Commercial Rental Vehicle Request for In-State Travel form to the Division Director for approval prior to the first date of travel. A separate request for commercial vehicle rental is not required when a vehicle rental is necessary while traveling Out-of-State. Instead, it should be noted and approved as part of the employee’s Out-of-State travel request. For all vehicle rentals, itemized receipts for reimbursable expenses must accompany the applicable travel expense form and may include the daily rental fee for a mid-size or smaller car, mileage fee, and gasoline costs. Rental fees for GPS units are not reimbursable. In all cases, employees are expected to utilize the least expensive rental car available to suit the need. Collision damage insurance for automobile rentals of seven (7) days or less are reimbursable, and should be taken, unless the rental has been made using either the employee’s or the Department’s State Travel Card, which provides collision damage coverage at no cost for rentals up to sixty (60) days. No other insurance or insurance-like product is reimbursable for rentals used in the United States unless required by law. The rental agency’s offer to provide collision damage waiver (CDW) should be declined.
20.9.f. Alternative Travel Arrangements – If an employee chooses to drive rather than fly on State business, reimbursement will be limited to the amount of the tourist or economy airline fare to the destination location. Mileage, tolls, parking, meals and any other charges in connection with alternate travel will be allowed only to the extent that such costs do not exceed the cost that would have been incurred if the traveler had used air transportation.
20.9.g. Other Transportation Costs – Other transportation costs will be reimbursed on an incurred basis. Such reimbursement may include shuttle/taxi transportation, toll road, toll bridges, subways, parking fees and garage storage charges for vehicles used in connection with State business.
20.9.h. State Vehicles – Employees should use State vehicles whenever practical in their travel. Employees should also use the fuel credit card assigned to each State vehicle for the purchase of fuel for the vehicle to maximize the discount to the Department.
20.9.h.1. Operation of State-owned Vehicles – Operation of State-owned vehicles shall be confined to State officials and employees while on official duty. No passengers or other individuals are permitted unless they are on the same official business as the authorized operator of the vehicle, such as tour groups. Exception to this is permitted in the event of an emergency situation which involves public safety or under special circumstances with written approval of the Commissioner/Chairman or his designee.
20.9.h.2. Employees must successfully complete the driver training course provided through BRIM or another comparable training provided gratis for State agencies before they will be allowed to operate a State-owned vehicle.
20.9.h.3. Use of any tobacco products in State-owned vehicles is prohibited.
20.9.h.4. Division Directors are responsible for ensuring that the mechanical maintenance and cleanliness of both the interior and exterior of all State-owned vehicles assigned to their division are properly monitored and maintained.
20.9.h.5. Adherence to all applicable State and Federal law is mandatory, i.e. wearing seat belts.
20.10 Registration Fees – Registration fees for meetings or conferences must be supported by a receipt. Employees will not receive additional allowance for lodging or food that has been included in the registration fee.
20.11 Baggage Handling Charges-Hotel – Reimbursement for portage of the traveler’s baggage will be on an incurred basis for the date of arrival and the date of departure, not to exceed a total of 5% of the daily room rate, i.e. if the room rate charged is $100 per day, the maximum amount reimbursable for that stay, regardless of duration, is $5.00.
20.12 Out-of-State Travel Requests – Each instance of out-of-state travel requires that the employee file an Out-of-State Travel Request Form issued by the Administrative Services Division to obtain the necessary approvals of the appropriate Division Director/Executive Director or designee and the Commissioner/Chairman or his designee. The request should be processed at least fifteen (15) working days in advance of the planned trip when possible. If more than one Department/Agency employee is requesting to attend the same out-of-state training, conference or event, it is the responsibility of the Division Director/Executive Director to submit all requests as a package to Executive for consideration and approval.
20.13 Post Trip Reports – Each employee may be required to prepare a report summarizing the purpose of the trip, content of the agenda, and valuable information gained to be shared with others within the Department/Agency. The report would be filed with the Division Director/Executive Director and the Commissioner’s/Chairman’s Office. Also, each employee may be required to make presentation(s) to others in the Department/Agency on the information gained and benefits derived from the trip.
20.14 Cash Advances
20.14.a. Out-of-State Travel Advance Allowance – Any employee duly authorized to travel out-of-state on Department/Agency business may request an advance allowance for no less than $100 between ten (10) to fifteen (15) calendar days prior to the first date of travel. Reconciliation for the advance allowance shall be cleared against the related expenses within fifteen (15) calendar days of the last day of travel. The employee has primary responsibility for compliance with reconciliation within the stated timeframe. The Division Director/Executive Director will be responsible for ensuring that the employee complies with the requirement of submitting the appropriate allowance reconciliations and related expense reports to the Administrative Services Division within fifteen (15) calendar days to be cleared through the Auditor’s Office process within thirty (30) calendar days. No employee may have more than two (2) cash advances outstanding at any time. Failure to settle a cash advance within the time frame prescribed will result in suspension of the employee’s future cash advance privileges.
20.14.b. Inspection Advance – Pursuant to the regulatory compliance duties of the Department of Agriculture, those employees charged by law or regulations to purchase at fair market value agriculture products for the purpose of specimens for inspection may request, on a quarterly basis, an inspection advance not to exceed three hundred dollars ($300.00). Those employees so authorized shall be responsible for a daily accounting of expenditures on daily activity reports to their Division Director and shall submit a settlement of the inspection advance within fifteen (15) calendar days of the last date of the advance. Example: An advance received for the period of January 1 thru March 31 must be settled by April 15th.
20.14.c. Outstanding Cash Advance Report – Employees can not have more than a total of two (2) outstanding cash advances, either travel or inspection or a combination of travel and inspection advances, at any time. The employee has primary responsibility for compliance with reconciliation and reporting requirements. The Division Director/Executive Director will be responsible for ensuring that each allowance is submitted to the Administrative Services Division within fifteen (15) calendar days to be cleared through the Auditor’s Office process within thirty (30) calendar days of the last date of the advance.
20.15 State Travel Card – All employees of the West Virginia Department of Agriculture, specifically excluding those classified as temporary, who travel as a part of their job responsibilities are eligible to apply for the State of West Virginia Travel Card. Employees should be aware that the issuing company of the State Travel Card performs a credit check on the employee’s credit history and uses this information in making a decision on issuing a card. Any State Travel Cards issued in the employee’s name will be included on the employee’s credit history from the date of issue forward.
20.16 Authorized Expenses – The State of West Virginia Travel Card may only be used for official business travel expenses as detailed in this policy and procedure and shall also include cash advances necessary for this purpose.
20.16.a Employee Responsibility – Upon acceptance of a State of West Virginia Travel Card, the employee agrees to abide by the terms and conditions of the contract negotiated by the State of West Virginia for use of the Travel Cards.
20.16.b. Personal and Retail Charges Prohibited – The State of WV Travel Card shall not be used for any personal or business retail charges including but not limited to the purchase of goods, supplies or services.
20.17 Penalties – The provision of a State of WV Travel Card is a privilege. Inappropriate use may result in the revocation of the card on either a temporary or permanent basis and/or disciplinary action, depending upon the nature of the incident. As with any credit card, the employee who has been issued the card is responsible for safeguarding it from inappropriate use by others. The employee is personally liable for all charges to the State of West Virginia Travel Card and may be subject to legal action by the card issuing company for any late or non-payment of the debt.