A-13985, SEPTEMBER 3, 1926, 6 COMP. GEN. 175

A-13985: Sep 3, 1926

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TRAVELING EXPENSES - USE OF OWN AUTOMOBILE WHERE IT APPEARS THAT THE LEGAL TITLE TO THE AUTOMOBILE USED BY AN EMPLOYEE OF THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE FOR OFFICIAL TRAVEL IN OHIO WAS IN THE BROTHER OF THE EMPLOYEE WHO RESIDED IN WASHINGTON. PAYMENT AT MILEAGE RATES FOR THE OFFICIAL TRAVEL ACTUALLY PERFORMED IS LIMITED TO 7 CENTS PER MILE. 1926: THERE IS FOR CONSIDERATION THE QUESTION WHETHER CREDIT MAY BE ALLOWED IN THE ACCOUNTS OF A. WHO IS AN EMPLOYEE OF THE BUREAU OF DAIRYING OF THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE. HE IS STATIONED IN WASHINGTON. DURING THE CHEESE-MAKING SEASON HE IS SENT TO SUGAR CREEK. THE ONLY FEASIBLE WAY TO MAKE THE TRIPS IS BY AUTOMOBILE. HE WAS FIRST SENT OUT ON THIS WORK IN THE SEASON OF 1922.

A-13985, SEPTEMBER 3, 1926, 6 COMP. GEN. 175

TRAVELING EXPENSES - USE OF OWN AUTOMOBILE WHERE IT APPEARS THAT THE LEGAL TITLE TO THE AUTOMOBILE USED BY AN EMPLOYEE OF THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE FOR OFFICIAL TRAVEL IN OHIO WAS IN THE BROTHER OF THE EMPLOYEE WHO RESIDED IN WASHINGTON, BUT THAT THE EMPLOYEE HAD THE BENEFICIAL USE OF THE MACHINE CONTINUOUSLY, PAYMENT AT MILEAGE RATES FOR THE OFFICIAL TRAVEL ACTUALLY PERFORMED IS LIMITED TO 7 CENTS PER MILE, AS FIXED BY STATUTE AND DEPARTMENT REGULATIONS.

DECISION BY COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL, SEPTEMBER 3, 1926:

THERE IS FOR CONSIDERATION THE QUESTION WHETHER CREDIT MAY BE ALLOWED IN THE ACCOUNTS OF A. ZAPPONE, DISBURSING CLERK, DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, FOR PAYMENTS MADE TO JOHN W. HARDELL, RESIDING IN WASHINGTON, D.C., FOR THE HIRE OF A FORD COUPE RENTED TO HIS BROTHER, ROBERT E. HARDELL, WHO IS AN EMPLOYEE OF THE BUREAU OF DAIRYING OF THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, ENGAGED IN CHEESE-MAKING INVESTIGATIONS IN A NUMBER OF FACTORIES IN THE VICINITY OF SUGAR CREEK, OHIO.

ROBERT E. HARDELL HAS BEEN IN THE EMPLOY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE SINCE AUGUST 1, 1921, AND HIS WORK HAS ALWAYS BEEN IN CONNECTION WITH CHEESE-MAKING INVESTIGATIONS. HE IS STATIONED IN WASHINGTON, D.C., IN THE WINTERTIME, AND DURING THE CHEESE-MAKING SEASON HE IS SENT TO SUGAR CREEK, OHIO, FROM WHICH PLACE HE GOES OUT PERIODICALLY TO A NUMBER OF CHEESE FACTORIES IN THE SURROUNDING COUNTRY FOR THE PURPOSE OF MAKING INVESTIGATION OF PROBLEMS ARISING IN CONNECTION WITH THE COMMERCIAL MANUFACTURE OF CHEESE. THIS INVOLVES THE NECESSITY FOR REPEATED TRIPS TO A NUMBER OF CHEESE FACTORIES IN THE SURROUNDING COUNTRY, AND THE ONLY FEASIBLE WAY TO MAKE THE TRIPS IS BY AUTOMOBILE. HE WAS FIRST SENT OUT ON THIS WORK IN THE SEASON OF 1922. DURING THE FIRST TWO MONTHS OF THAT SEASON HE HIRED A CAR FROM A GARAGE IN SUGAR CREEK, OHIO, AT 15 CENTS A MILE. IN MAY, 1922, ROBERT E. HARDELL SECURED A QUOTATION OF 15 CENTS A MILE FROM THE MAIN STREET GARAGE, OF SUGAR CREEK, AND IN A LETTER TO HIS OFFICIAL SUPERIOR STATED THAT THE FORD GARAGE IN THAT PLACE WAS NOT ANXIOUS TO RENT A CAR FOR HIS WORK, BUT IF THEY DID IT WOULD BE 15 CENTS A MILE. APPARENTLY AN ORAL AGREEMENT WAS ENTERED INTO WITH JOHN W. HARDELL TO FURNISH A CHEVROLET CAR FOR 14 CENTS A MILE, AS A VOUCHER IN HIS FAVOR WAS PAID FOR USE OF SUCH A CAR FOR SEPTEMBER, 1923.

A QUESTION WAS RAISED ON THIS VOUCHER AS TO WHY AN AUTOMOBILE WAS NOT HIRED AT THE EMPLOYEE'S OFFICIAL STATION. THE EXPLANATION WAS SUBMITTED THAT THE RATE WAS BETTER THAN COULD BE SECURED FROM A LOCAL CONCERN. APPARENTLY THIS EXPLANATION WAS ACCEPTED, SINCE CREDIT WAS ALLOWED FOR THE PAYMENTS MADE UNDER THE ORAL AGREEMENT ABOVE REFERRED TO. WHETHER THE AGREEMENT WAS RENEWED IN 1924 DOES NOT APPEAR.

APRIL 11, 1925, JOHN W. HARDELL WROTE TO THE BUREAU OF DAIRYING AND OFFERED TO FURNISH THE GOVERNMENT A NEW 1925 COUPE FOR THE USE OF HIS BROTHER, ROBERT E. HARDELL, IN HIS OFFICIAL WORK IN THE VICINITY OF SUGAR CREEK, OHIO, AT 14 CENTS A MILE. THE OFFER WAS ACCEPTED ON APRIL 13, 1925, BY THE ACTING DIRECTOR PURCHASE AND SALES OF THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, THE RENTAL TO INCLUDE ALL EXPENSES OF OPERATION AND MAINTENANCE. UNDER THIS AGREEMENT PAYMENTS AGGREGATING $895.78 HAVE BEEN MADE FOR TRAVEL PERFORMED UP TO NOVEMBER 30, 1925.

THE ACT MAKING APPROPRIATION FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE FOR THE FISCAL YEAR 1925 CONTAINS THE FOLLOWING PROVISION:

WHENEVER DURING THE FISCAL YEAR ENDING JUNE 30, 1925, THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE SHALL FIND THAT THE EXPENSES OF TRAVEL, INCLUDING TRAVEL AT OFFICIAL STATIONS, CAN BE REDUCED THEREBY, HE MAY, IN LIEU OF ACTUAL OPERATING EXPENSES, UNDER SUCH REGULATIONS AS HE MAY PRESCRIBE, AUTHORIZE THE PAYMENT OF NOT TO EXCEED 3 CENTS PER MILE FOR MOTOR CYCLE OR 7 CENTS PER MILE FOR AN AUTOMOBILE USED FOR NECESSARY TRAVEL ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS.

SIMILAR PROVISIONS HAVE APPEARED IN THE ACTS MAKING APPROPRIATION FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE FOR FISCAL YEARS PRIOR TO 1925, AND ALSO APPEAR IN THE ACTS FOR THE FISCAL YEARS 1926 AND 1927.

THE FISCAL REGULATIONS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE PRESCRIBE THAT WHEN SPECIFICALLY AUTHORIZED THERE MAY BE ALLOWED MILEAGE RATES NOT EXCEEDING 7 CENTS PER MILE FOR THE USE OF PERSONALLY OWNED AUTOMOBILE FOR OFFICIAL WORK.

IN THIS CASE THE AUTOMOBILE USED IN OFFICIAL TRAVEL WAS NOT PERSONALLY OWNED BY THE EMPLOYEE SO USING IT. IT IS PROBABLE THAT THE LEGAL TITLE OF THE AUTOMOBILE WAS ACTUALLY IN THE BROTHER OF THE EMPLOYEE AT ALL TIMES, BUT INASMUCH AS THE ONE WHO HAD THE LEGAL TITLE TO THE CAR WAS IN WASHINGTON, D.C., AND THE CAR ITSELF WAS IN SUGAR CREEK, OHIO, AND VICINITY THROUGHOUT THE CHEESE-MAKING SEASON, THERE SEEMS TO BE NO DOUBT THAT THE BENEFICIAL USE OF THE CAR WAS IN THE EMPLOYEE WHO WAS USING IT IN HIS OFFICIAL WORK AND FOR SUCH OTHER PURPOSES PERSONAL TO HIMSELF AS HE SAW FIT.

THE ARRANGEMENT MAY HAVE BEEN INNOCENT AND BONA FIDE, BUT IT CERTAINLY HAS THE APPEARANCE OF A SUBTERFUGE TO AVOID THE LIMITATION OF 7 CENTS A MILE IMPOSED BY STATUTE AND THE DEPARTMENT REGULATIONS.

IN VIEW OF THE FACTS APPEARING, IT MUST BE CONSIDERED THAT THERE WAS NO AUTHORITY TO ENTER INTO THE AGREEMENT OF APRIL 13, 1925, CALLING FOR A MILEAGE RATE OF 14 CENTS A MILE, AND IT MUST BE REGARDED AS NO MORE THAN AN AUTHORIZATION TO ALLOW 7 CENTS A MILE FOR THE USE OF THE EMPLOYEE'S PERSONALLY OWNED CAR.

ACCORDINGLY, CREDIT WILL BE ALLOWED IN THE DISBURSING CLERK'S ACCOUNT AT THE RATE OF ONLY 7 CENTS A MILE FOR THE NUMBER OF MILES ACTUALLY TRAVELED BY ROBERT E. HARDELL ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS, FOR WHICH PAYMENT HAS BEEN MADE UNDER THE AGREEMENT OF APRIL 13, 1925, AT THE RATE OF 14 CENTS A MILE.