Tuesday, October 21, 2008

PalinGate and More....

AP INVESTIGATION: Alaska funded Palin kids' travel

I have to respond to this because it opens up some many more questions for me, a Alaska State employee, than it answers. For, how on Earth was Sarah able to much less did, charge the travel expenses for her kids. There are several check and balance systems in place that should have prevented this in the first place. Maybe there's some executive priveleges I am not aware of (if there are executive priveleges, why are wasting tons of our money trying to indict Ted Stevens, another story.)
Steps to travel for an employee of Alaska's Executive Branch:
Request travel permission from supervisor, if request is for out of state travel, then a regional supervisor must approve, then it gets forwarded to headquarters where an agency Commissioner's designee must approve. The travel request must state dates, destination, estimated costs, and justification of why this travel is needed. Sarah doesn't have a supervisor so gets a free one here. Too bad, that's an important check that should be in place to prevent new articles.

Travel arrangements MUST be made through the State Travel Office or STO. Now the STO is the last vestige of Frank Murkowski's infamy. This is a corrupt private institution that all state employees must patronize to travel. The STO charges the state for EACH transaction. Meaning every airline reservation has a fee, every hotel reservation has a fee, every rental car reservation has a fee. The Travel agency is making some huge bucks on this, but does anybody investigate this SCAM?! The process has been relaxed somewhat in that the employee can now make their own hotel and rental car reservations. They can make their own airline reservations but are not allowed to purchase the ticket themselves, STO must do that. The STO uses State Procurement protocols to process your request, which is done online. They will not proceed with your reservation unless you've certified by email that you have approval to travel from your supervisor. Some employees, such as myself, have a Purchase Credit Card number on file to charge the airline ticket too. You can make arrangements for other people through the STO, but because I've never done this, I don't know how exactly this works, but the STO has to operate under the State's procurement code.
How Palin was able to charge the tickets for her kids is beyond me. Were they employees? Were they hired on as volunteers? An employee can't just start making reservations willy nilly for people USING the STO! If Palin doesn't have to use the STO, then I'm really mad, because the rest of us do, and we are forced to pay a private company to make our reservations for us. Which would be fine if it were 1980. But its 2008, and making flight reservations and getting them exactly how you want them on the internet takes a minute or two. For me, STO rarely gets it right even if I tell them I have to leave on Monday, they'll book me on Tuesday. Rarely have they got it right and it costs more of my time to use this stupid ass STO.

Once travel is over, I along with all other state employees, but maybe the governor doesn't, have to complete the paper work -No job is ever complete until the paperwork is done! All expenses have to be accounted for and JUSTIFIED. For meals, I typically get $60 per day divided by various amounts for breakfast lunch and dinner, and I don't know of any limits on Hotels. A 700 dollar a night hotel in New York is nothing really, try getting one in Manhattan for less. I dare you. So 60 bucks is good money for meals, it should cover you, but I'll tell you that is getting harder and harder to do. If I go to a conference I have to submit a conference agenda so the approvers of this form can determine if I was provided any of the meals at the conference thus preventing me from walking away with that meal's allowance. This form has to bee approved by the nearest Adminstrative Manager, THEN it gets sent to Headquarters (Juneau staff) for approval. Interestingly, the supervisor does not have to approve, mainly because a supervisor has already approved the travel, and the estimated cost. Headquarters must approve these travel expenses otherwise the employee is responsible. So How did Sarah get her travel expenses approved!?!! Highly unlikely she did her own paperwork, so someone wasn't doing their job, or someone did their job and did too well, and got caught and Sarah gets blamed, it is her responsibility. But really can you blame them. Who is going to tell the governor they are redhanded wrong? You don't get very far in government telling your boss, much less the governor, they are wrong - isn't that right Walt?!

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