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Vol. LXII, No. 12
June 11, 2010

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Have a question about some aspect of working at NIH? You can post anonymous queries at (click on the Feedback icon) and we’ll try to provide answers.

Feedback: What is the quality of the water coming out of water fountains in the different buildings on campus? Does it all come from the same source? Why is bottled water offered free in some buildings while the occupants of other buildings have to pay for it?

Response from ORS/ORF: All water to campus is supplied by the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC). The WSSC is charged with supplying potable water that meets the EPA’s national drinking water standards to its customers. The WSSC routinely tests the quality of the water it supplies to NIH against these standards.

If NIH determines that the water distribution system (plumbing, filters, etc.) within a building is affecting drinking water quality, then ORF facility management will provide an alternative source of drinking water until the problem is corrected.

NIH is prohibited from providing bottled water in buildings unless the drinking water is determined to be unsuitable or unavailable for consumption. The Community Health Branch (CHB) of the Division of Occupational Health and Safety (DOHS) in the Office of Research Services supports NIH facility management by sampling drinking water for concentrations of lead and responding to employee concerns associated with drinking water.

For more information on the water quality provided by WSSC to NIH and surrounding community, visit For information on the CHB drinking water analysis program, contact DOHS at (301) 496-2960 or go to For building-related concerns, contact appropriate NIH facility managers listed at

Feedback: GovTrip has now become a burden for my office. Each time I create a local travel authorization, we are assessed a $13.50 fee that goes to Northrop Grumman on an individual transactional basis for services rendered by the GovTrip system, i.e. document processing. What kind of system did we get ourselves into? Imagine 19,000 people at NIH going on local travel. That’s $256,000 of fees! How is that a good way to spend taxpayer money?

Response from the Office of Management: On Jan. 25, 2010, NIH completed deployment of the GovTrip Travel System to all ICs. The implementation of GovTrip was the Department of Health and Human Services’ response to the 2004 President’s Management Agenda mandate requiring all civilian agencies of the government to deploy an eTravel shared-service solution to “realize the efficiencies, cost-savings and increased service associated with a common, automated and integrated approach to managing travel.”

Transaction fees charged by the GovTrip system provider, Northrop Grumman (NG), replace the cost for NIH to maintain its own stand-alone travel system and database. There are three types of approved voucher transaction fees: Local Voucher $6.25; Interim Voucher $13.50; and Final Voucher $13.50. These transaction fees are generated within the travel document; funds are obligated to cover the fees and payment of fees is made directly to NG when a voucher is approved.

As mentioned above, NG charges $6.25 per local travel voucher. Travelers are encouraged to save local receipts and submit quarterly or biannually on one local travel voucher in order to mitigate the cost of the processing fees. Multiple local trips paid on one voucher would only incur a $6.25 charge. Each IC has its own policy for submitting receipts for local vouchers.

In addition, because GovTrip offers an online booking tool for non-local travel, NIH fees for reservations through Omega have been reduced from $23.55 (Domestic Travel $29.07) and Foreign Travel per reservation booked off-line to $5.64 per reservation booked online. This has the potential to provide considerable savings to the ICs, offsetting the local travel fee.

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