Kevin Kulesa - SSA

Kevin Kulesa

Division Director, Division of Travel Services
Lead Contracting Officer’s Representative, SmartPay 2 Contract (Travel Card) 
Social Security Administration (SSA)  
12 Year Veteran of the GSA SmartPay Program (Level 1 A/OPC)

Describe some of your responsibilities related to the GSA SmartPay program.

While I was the Lead APC (Agency Program Coordinator), I managed every aspect of the program - processing applications, establishing and monitoring internal controls regarding timely payment of and the proper usage of the travel card, providing reports to management and to OMB, and tracking agency rebates.  I also provided customer service to cardholders by answering questions, adjusting credit limits as necessary and closing cards.

In my current role as Division Director, I trained the current Lead and Level 1 APCs.  I also provide informal guidance and formal leadership when issues occur. 

How does your agency/organization use the GSA SmartPay program to accomplish its mission?

We use the travel card as the primary way for employees to pay for approved travel expenses.  We have always made it mandatory that employees obtain a travel card prior to going on travel regardless of how many times a year they travel.  We also encourage its use for local travel.  Employees can concentrate much more on their work when they do not have to worry about incurring expenses on their own personal card or applying for a paper travel advance.      

What do you see as the major benefits of the GSA SmartPay program?

One of the major benefits is the peace of mind it gives cardholders.  Employees are away from home in often unfamiliar areas.  They are out of their comfort zones and travel can be a hassle.  In a situation like that, one thing they do not need to worry about is how to pay for expenses.  

For SSA, the major benefits are doing away with paper travel advances, the ability to keep track of card activity, and the many reports that give quick information on the program.  Using travel cards is much less of an administrative burden than travel advances.  The technology developed as part of SmartPay makes it much easier to keep track of delinquencies, card usage, and spending patterns within individual SSA components and regions.

What is the most interesting/important way that you’ve seen the GSA SmartPay program used within your agency/organization?

Hurricane SandyWe used the program in a very important way during the recovery from Hurricane Sandy. Some of our employees in the affected areas, especially in New Jersey and New York lost everything- homes, cars, personal property, etc.  We were able to use the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) Special Allowances regulations to assist employees in mandatory evacuation zones by providing them with travel cards and temporarily reimbursing some of their expenses. 
 
OPM’s regulations govern special allowances for travel and subsistence expenses to accommodate evacuated employees, their spouses, and dependents, when affected by disasters.  These payments are at the agency’s discretion.  The Commissioner of Social Security authorized us to reimburse expenses in accord with the regulations.  The travel card was the appropriate payment device since OPM required us to follow the Federal Travel Regulations.  Affected employees used these cards for the necessities of life- temporary housing, food, and transportation.     

For many of these employees, the travel card was the only payment method they had. We received so many heartfelt Thank You notes. Most thanked us for providing them some stability on which they could rebuild their lives.  At times like that, I realize how important this program is.

What’s one fact/piece of information about the GSA SmartPay program that you’d like to share with the general public?

The GSA SmartPay program is a great example of simplifying a government process and reducing waste.  It reduces the administrative costs of running a charge card program.  It also helps agencies to monitor card usage in order to eliminate fraud, waste, and mismanagement.  Finally, it is an incredibly useful tool to help agencies track spending on travel and purchases.