The Finance Ministry has asked government employees to opt for 'cheapest fare available' on their entitled travel class and book air tickets at least three weeks prior to their date of travel for tours and LTC, as it looks to cut down on unnecessary expenditure.
The Ministry further said that employees should book only one ticket for each leg of intended travel, make bookings even if approval of the tour programme is under process and also avoid "unnecessary cancellations".
Government employees are currently required to purchase air tickets only from three authorised travel agents -- Balmer Lawrie & Co, Ashok Travel & Tours and IRCTC.
Any booking made within less than 72 hours of intended travel on tour or any cancellation made less than 24 hours before intended travel will require the submission of self-declared justification by the employee, as per the modified instructions regarding booking of air tickets on the government account.
"Employees are to choose flights having the Best Available Fare on their entitled travel class which is the Cheapest Fare available, preferably for non-stop flight in a given slot at the time of booking," said the office memorandum of the Department of Expenditure.
Tickets for all employees for a single tour should be done through one selected travel agent only and no charges/fees should be paid to these booking agents, as per the instruction.
"Employees are encouraged to book flight tickets at least 21 days prior to the intended travel on tour and LTC, to avail the most competitive fares and minimise burden on the exchequer," it said.
The modified instruction also nudged employees to make ticket booking digitally through the self-booking tool/online booking website/portal of the three authorised travel agents.
"Employees should preferably book only one ticket for each leg of intended travel. Holding of more than one ticket is not allowed. However, in case of special exigencies or exceptional circumstances, a maximum of two tickets for the alternative flights for different time-slot may be booked for the same leg of travel with the self-declared justification for the same," the instruction read.
In unavoidable circumstances where the booking of ticket is done from an unauthorised travel agent/website, the relaxation has to be granted only by an officer of the rank of Joint Secretary or above.
The Expenditure department also asked all ministries and departments to clear their dues to the travel agents within 30 days of completion of journey, while officers will have to submit a certificate/undertaking within 72 hours of journey confirming their travel.
Ministries must clear all previous outstanding dues to the travel agents by August 31, 2022, it said, adding no mileage points will be generated against travel on government accounts.
The Ministry is looking to cut down on unnecessary expenditure as fiscal expenses are already high on account of excise duty cuts on petrol and diesel, customs duty reduction in some commodities, higher fertiliser subsidy and free food scheme for the poor.