Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Provost meets with SACUA to discuss travel, hosting policy changes

Provost Teresa Sullivan told a faculty governance panel Monday that changes to U-M’s travel and hosting expense policy are not likely to cause financial difficulties for people traveling on university business.

Much of the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs’ discussion of the new policy dealt with the switch to a per diem system in which travelers will be reimbursed a set amount for meals and incidental costs.

In an e-mail to faculty and staff last week, Sullivan and other university officials said switching to a per diem will allow U-M to comply more easily with state and federal reporting requirements and its internal control standards, as well as ultimately save the university money that can be redirected to its core mission.

The per diem, which will be based on U.S. General Service Administration rate tables and ranges from $39 to $64 depending on the city, is designed to replace use of the P-Card for meals and incidentals.

“I think that people are not going to find this is a hardship,” Sullivan said of the policy that takes effect Oct. 15. “Our intention is not to create a hardship here, but to be frugal.”

In fact, SACUA member Wayne Stark of the College of Engineering suggested the per diem might give some travelers more money than they spend under the current system.

Sullivan also clarified that the per diem applies only to meals and incidental expenses — such as tips given to baggage handlers — and does not include lodging. The policy covers lodging separately, stating travelers should select the least expensive option available taking into consideration proximity to the business destination and safety.

She said the lodging policy was not intended to prevent travelers from staying at the same hotel that is hosting the conference or event they may be attending.

She also said reimbursement under the new system should occur quickly enough to cover balances on personal credit cards that people may use to cover their costs initially.

SACUA Chair Michael Thouless of the College of Engineering said after the meeting that he doesn’t think most faculty members will be upset by the new travel policy, and that Sullivan’s comments helped clarify some aspects of it.

For additional details about the new policy — as well as key contacts, a schedule of informational meetings, and other resources — go to www.procurement.umich.edu/travelexpense.html.