iraqistan

10/5/2009

Little Help?

Filed under: — lana @ 2:37 pm

The Army, as I have mentioned previously, has streamlined their travel order system. The old way was paper. You got orders from your unit to go somewhere and arrangements were made. You went. You got back from your trip, went to finance, filled out some paperwork, handed in some receipts, and waited awhile, occasionally reminding finance that you were in fact still in the Army and still waiting to be paid. But now it is all on the computer! Efficient! Streamlined! Handy-dandy-wonderful!

By streamlined, as usual, I mean somewhat broken.

It works sometimes. You get told you are going somewhere and are told to log into the system. You work your way through the maze of screens where you need to know exactly what to select to ensure you don’t get hoodwinked (again). You finally digitally sign something. It gets sent to people in some chain of command somewhere (sometimes yours, sometimes not) who may or may not look at it in a timely manner. Everyone on multiple particular (and seemingly arbitraily assigned) levels has to sign in exact order. Then, when everyone has signed, you can print out orders in 8-point font that no one can read and go book your travel arrangements. All the ladies in my travel office now wear glasses. Anyway, you go, you come back, you go back into the system. You find the original orders set, called an authorization, and pull up the voucher that is now magically attached to that authorization. You work through another screen maze and upload receipts and sign the voucher. It goes through another set of signatures, usually getting kicked back several times which can take days if not weeks. When (and if) it ever goes through, you get paid a few days after the final, usually about the sixth, signature.

Sometimes it works.

Many times, it does not.

Aside from the system being down regularly, either not working completely or just degraded (I particularly like the “system performance degraded” one: I like to think someone has properly insulted it and it is eating a pint of ice cream while it’s computer-friends tell it that all will be okay while they secretly think it shouldn’t be eating so much ice cream and it should get back to work already), many things can go wrong while waiting on that many signatures that many times. With the paper system, it just went to finance who said “You had the orders, this is the pot the money was supposed to come from, we know what to do so we just have to lose this a few times and then we will pay you.” Now, everyone and their cousin’s dog has to sign off on everything, and most of these people care even less about me and my credit score than anyone in my finance office.

This time I ran into a new conundrum. Back in August, I had signed orders (in 8-point font), so I got my tickets and skipped town as instructed. I got to Arizona. About two weeks into the course, I get a random system email from the travel system. It said my authorization had been returned. That was odd: they were signed and authorized already. So I open the email and it says that someone whose level had already signed off had returned my request because she wanted to see receipts and I had to resubmit as a voucher.

Tricky part 1: The system will not produce a voucher for submission if the authorization is returned, even if the authorization was previously, well, authorized. She returned the authorization after it was, well, authorized because she wanted the accompanying voucher. Catch-22.

Tricky part 2: She wanted me to submit receipts in order for her to authorize the orders (again) so the receipts could be paid via the now non-existent voucher. I had no receipts yet, because I had yet to finish travel. So she wanted the receipts ahead of time?

The folks in Arizona told me not to worry, that it would all be fixed when I returned. They clearly don’t know my unit well. So I graduated, returned, and headed to the field as instructed. Come to find out that one of the reasons I was pulled back from the field was because I had yet to submit my voucher for Arizona and had shown up on some spreadsheet somewhere because my voucher wasn’t submitted. This being the same voucher I could not actually submit because the authorization was returned because they wanted the receipts along with my voucher in order to authorize the travel which would then generate the voucher I needed to complete in order to clear their spreadsheet.

Or something like that. If I figure it out, I will be sure to let someone know. If someone else figures it out, we could use a little help over here…

3 Comments »

  1. Well said… Great information, keep up the great work!

    Comment by Susan Kishner — 10/5/2009 @ 2:47 pm

  2. Great Blog post. I am going to bookmark and read more often. I love the Blog template … if you need any assistance customizing it let me know!

    Comment by Susan Kishner — 10/5/2009 @ 2:54 pm

  3. Your travel authorization has been returned. Reason: Did not submit correct accounting code. Crap!!! Go to finance and ask for accounting code.

    Your travel authorization has been returned. Reason: Did not allocate expenses into accounting code. *blinks*

    My favorite… Cannot complete travel authorization because the GSA approved 4 stop flight is $1 more expensive then the alternate non-stop GSA contracted flight.

    Or CWL, which is now called something else, not being able to reserve a ticket because they want travel orders. Me: “I sent you the authorization” Them: “Well we need the orders” Me: “Look, the system only gives me an authorization” Them: “What system?” Me: “Get ready, this is going to be a long conversation.”

    Comment by Hector — 10/6/2009 @ 1:49 pm

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