They’re everywhere: from boxes of conference records scheduled to come to the Archives, to county financial offices, to old file rooms in towns, to our own desks. Appropriate to their name, travel request forms and travel reimbursement forms can travel quite a bit. And like other records that show up in multiple places, they can be tricky to manage efficiently.
Fortunately, a couple of key practices can make classifying and disposing of these records a snap.
- What is the retention period?
State and local agencies currently have slightly different retention periods for travel authorization and reimbursement, but the principles are very similar.Most local agencies will have the following retention periods for their travel records (example is taken from the 2013 County Management schedule).
This schedule distinguishes between travel requests, where no money is involved, and travel reimbursements, which specifically involves financial transactions related to travel, such as per diems. Requests need be kept for only one year, while reimbursements must be kept for three.
As always, local agencies should check their most recently adopted retention schedules and follow the disposition instructions there. If you are unsure which schedule your agency is following, contact a records analyst for help.
State agencies’ travel records, by contrast, are included in the Budget Standard on the General Schedule for State Agency Records (last updated 2015), which applies to all State agencies.
Travel requests and reimbursements are not separate on this schedule, but the retention periods are. Official/audit copies must be kept for five years, but all remaining records may be destroyed after one.
- Where is the record copy?
The General Schedule distinguishes between the official/audit copy of travel reimbursement records, and all “remaining records.” So, which one needs to be kept for five years instead of one?The official record, or record copy, is the version of the record that has been designated for full retention and response to audits, litigation, and other official action. It often bears original signatures, and is frequently kept in a more organized and protected environment than the personal reference copies that individuals keep at their desks. In the case of travel reimbursements, the record copy may reside with the agency’s finance office. Record copies of requests and authorizations that do not involve money may reside with the final supervisor who approves the requests.
If you do not know where the record copy for travel authorizations resides within your agency, ask the other people involved in authorization. This should allow you to determine whether a travel request you find is a reference copy or not. Reference copies of state travel requests fall under “all remaining records” and must be kept for one year, while reference copies of local travel requests may be destroyed according to internal agency policies.
Once you’ve answered these two questions for your office, managing travel requests is easy. For one thing, they’re easily identifiable – agencies frequently use forms to request authorization or reimbursement for travel, and other travel records associated with these forms (hotel reservations, plane tickets) can also be identified readily. Additionally, even if you’re not sure whether you have the record copy of a travel form or a reference copy, the retention period is short enough that forms found while going through old personal papers may very well have met the longest retention period already.
Destroying routine records that have met their retention period now means saving on space, time, and mental energy later. Keep your eyes open for travel authorization records when you go through your old files!