A-22202, MAY 11, 1928, 7 COMP. GEN. 715

A-22202: May 11, 1928

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TRANSPORTATION REQUESTS - CLASS ACCOMMODATIONS WHEN ISSUING TRANSPORTATION REQUESTS FOR ACCOMMODATIONS ON COASTWISE STEAMERS UPON WHICH ALL ACCOMMODATIONS ARE DESIGNATED AS FIRST CLASS. THE REQUESTS SHOULD CALL FOR THE LOWEST FIRST-CLASS ACCOMMODATIONS AND IF THE TRAVELER CONSIDERS THAT ACCOMMODATIONS AVAILABLE UNDER THAT DESCRIPTION ARE NOT IN FACT FIRST CLASS HE MAY SECURE ACCOMMODATIONS FIRST CLASS IN FACT AND PAY THE EXCESS COST. THE FURNISHING OF SUPERIOR RAILWAY OR STEAMSHIP ACCOMMODATIONS UNDER PARAGRAPH 13 (C) OF THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS IS NOT AUTHORIZED SOLELY ON ACCOUNT OF THE PERSONAL PREFERENCE OR OFFICIAL RANK OF THE INDIVIDUAL. AS FOLLOWS: RECEIPT IS ACKNOWLEDGED OF THE LETTER OF THE ASSISTANT COMPTROLLER GENERAL OF MARCH 24.

A-22202, MAY 11, 1928, 7 COMP. GEN. 715

TRANSPORTATION REQUESTS - CLASS ACCOMMODATIONS WHEN ISSUING TRANSPORTATION REQUESTS FOR ACCOMMODATIONS ON COASTWISE STEAMERS UPON WHICH ALL ACCOMMODATIONS ARE DESIGNATED AS FIRST CLASS, THE REQUESTS SHOULD CALL FOR THE LOWEST FIRST-CLASS ACCOMMODATIONS AND IF THE TRAVELER CONSIDERS THAT ACCOMMODATIONS AVAILABLE UNDER THAT DESCRIPTION ARE NOT IN FACT FIRST CLASS HE MAY SECURE ACCOMMODATIONS FIRST CLASS IN FACT AND PAY THE EXCESS COST, CLAIMING REIMBURSEMENT IN HIS EXPENSE ACCOUNT WITH A FULL EXPLANATION OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES. THE FURNISHING OF SUPERIOR RAILWAY OR STEAMSHIP ACCOMMODATIONS UNDER PARAGRAPH 13 (C) OF THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS IS NOT AUTHORIZED SOLELY ON ACCOUNT OF THE PERSONAL PREFERENCE OR OFFICIAL RANK OF THE INDIVIDUAL, BUT MUST REST UPON SOME NECESSITY FROM THE STANDPOINT OF THE GOVERNMENT, E.G., SUCH AS THE NECESSITY FOR TRANSACTION OF OFFICIAL BUSINESS EN ROUTE.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL TO THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE, MAY 11, 1928:

THERE HAS BEEN RECEIVED YOUR LETTER OF APRIL 18, 1928, AS FOLLOWS:

RECEIPT IS ACKNOWLEDGED OF THE LETTER OF THE ASSISTANT COMPTROLLER GENERAL OF MARCH 24, IN THE MATTER OF A STATEROOM OCCUPIED BY AN EMPLOYEE OF THIS DEPARTMENT DURING OFFICIAL TRAVEL ON A STEAMER OPERATED BY THE NEW YORK AND PORTO RICO STEAMSHIP COMPANY. THIS WAS A CASE WHERE THE EMPLOYEE, UNABLE THROUGH LACK OF ADVANCE NOTICE OF THE DATE OF THE TRIP TO MAKE EARLY APPLICATION FOR ACCOMMODATIONS, FOUND IT NECESSARY TO ENGAGE A STATEROOM PRICED SOMEWHAT ABOVE THE LOWEST RATES FOR THE CLASS. THE CARRIER'S ACCOUNT, THOUGH HELD UP IN YOUR OFFICE, WAS ULTIMATELY PAID UPON EXPLANATION; BUT THE LETTER OF THE ASSISTANT COMPTROLLER GENERAL SEEMS TO IMPLY THAT NOTHING BUT THE LOWEST PRICED FIRST-CLASS ACCOMMODATIONS SHOULD BE OBTAINED FOR OFFICIAL TRAVEL AND CONTAINS AN ADMONITION THAT WHERE THE ACCOMMODATIONS "ARE NOT AT THE LOWEST RATE, THE TRAVELER SHOULD FURNISH THE TRANSPORTATION COMPANY, FOR USE IN SUPPORTING ITS CLAIM FOR PAYMENT FOR THE SERVICE, A SHOWING AS TO THE FACTS AND CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH PREVENTED THE SECURING OF THE LOWER-PRICE ACCOMMODATIONS, AND THAT THE APPLICATION FOR RESERVATION WAS MADE AS EARLY AS PRACTICABLE * * *.' THERE IS A REFERENCE TO PARAGRAPH 29 OF THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS. IT MAY BE REMARKED IN PASSING THAT THE JUSTICE OF MAKING THE PAYMENT TO THE OCEAN CARRIER DEPENDS IN PART UPON THE DILIGENCE OF THE FEDERAL EMPLOYEE IN APPLYING FOR RESERVATIONS, A MATTER QUITE BEYOND THE CARRIER'S CONTROL, IS NOT APPARENT. THE PROVISION OF PARAGRAPH 13 (C) OF THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS IS THAT "ANY ADDITIONAL COST RESULTING FROM UNNECESSARY DELAY IN SECURING SUCH ACCOMMODATIONS (ON STEAMERS) SHALL BE BORNE BY THE TRAVELER.'

REPLY TO THE ASSISTANT COMPTROLLER GENERAL'S LETTER WAS DEFERRED BECAUSE FOR POSSIBLE USE IN THE RESPONSE WE DESIRED TO OBTAIN FULLER DETAILS OF AN EXPERIENCE REPORTED BY TWO OFFICERS OF THE DEPARTMENT, ONE THE ASSOCIATE FORESTER, THE OTHER A DISTRICT FORESTER OF THE FOREST SERVICE, IN MAKING THE ROUND TRIP BETWEEN NEW YORK AND PORTO RICO ON STEAMERS OF THE PORTO RICO STEAMSHIP LINE. ALL CABINS ON THESE STEAMERS WERE OSTENSIBLY FIRST CLASS. TRANSPORTATION REQUESTS WERE PRESENTED FOR THE ACCOMMODATIONS DESIRED. THEY CALLED FOR THE CHEAPEST OUTSIDE ROOMS ON THE LEAST EXPENSIVE DECK AT APPROXIMATELY $195. THE STEAMSHIP COMPANY RETURNED THE REQUESTS WITH THE STATEMENT: "IN VIEW OF THE FACT THAT THE GOVERNMENT HAS DISALLOWED A NUMBER OF CLAIMS QUITE RECENTLY, WE WILL, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES, FURNISH TRANSPORTATION ABOVE THE MINIMUM FARE ON THE VESSEL FOR WHICH THE TRANSPORTATION IS REQUESTED.' AS A RESULT THE OFFICERS WERE OBLIGED TO ACCEPT THE LOWEST-PRICED CABINS, $160, ON THE STEAMERS. THE QUARTERS PROVED TO BE DISTINCTLY LESS DESIRABLE THAN THE SECOND CLASS ACCOMMODATIONS OF THE AVERAGE TRANS-ATLANTIC LINER. THE GRAVE DISCOMFORT TO WHICH THE OFFICERS WERE SUBJECTED, FROM WHICH ONE ESCAPED BY DRAWING UPON HIS PERSONAL FUNDS, ARE DESCRIBED IN ACCOMPANYING MEMORANDA. THE DEPARTMENT HAS BEEN IMPRESSED AND CONCERNED BY THIS OCCURRENCE. THERE IS CLEAR NEED OF RELIEF FROM A SITUATION IN WHICH REPRESENTATIVES OF THE DEPARTMENT HOLDING POSITIONS OF ADMINISTRATIVE RESPONSIBILITY ARE PRESENTED WITH THE ALTERNATIVE OF CONTRIBUTING PERSONAL FUNDS TO MEET THE COST OF THEIR OFFICIAL TRAVEL OR OF PUTTING UP WITH INFERIOR QUARTERS WHICH NO BUSINESS FIRM OF ANY STANDING WOULD THINK OF IMPOSING UPON ITS REPRESENTATIVES.

WE WISH TO DRAW ATTENTION TO THE ABSENCE OF ANY REQUIREMENT IN THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS THAT OFFICERS OF THE GOVERNMENT MUST OBTAIN ONLY THE CHEAPEST FIRST-CLASS OR SO-CALLED FIRST-CLASS ACCOMMODATIONS. OF THE TWO PARAGRAPHS WHICH DEAL WITH THE SUBJECT, FIRST, PARAGRAPH 13, SUBPARAGRAPH (C), PROVIDES: "A SECTION, COMPARTMENT, DRAWING ROOM, OR OTHER SUPERIOR RAILWAY OR STEAMSHIP ACCOMMODATIONS WILL BE ALLOWED WHEN THE EXIGENCIES OF TRAVEL REQUIRE IT. WHEN NOT AUTHORIZED IN ADVANCE, FULL EXPLANATION SATISFACTORY TO THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIAL OF THE NECESSITY FOR THE USE OF SUCH SUPERIOR ACCOMMODATIONS MUST ACCOMPANY THE EXPENSE ACCOUNT.' PARAGRAPH 29,"STATEROOMS," IS AS FOLLOWS:

"STATEROOMS: WHEN REQUESTS ARE ISSUED FOR STATEROOMS ON RIVER OR COASTWISE STEAMSHIPS, WHERE THE STATEROOMS ARE A SEPARATE CHARGE, THE SPECIFIC VALUE OF THE ROOM AUTHORIZED MUST BE INSERTED ON THE REQUESTS. IF IT IS IMPRACTICABLE TO DETERMINE WHEN ISSUING THE REQUEST WHAT SLEEPING ACCOMMODATIONS ARE AVAILABLE AND IT IS DESIRED TO LIMIT THE TRAVELER TO THE CHEAPEST FIRST-CLASS ACCOMMODATIONS AVAILABLE THE WORDS "CHEAPEST AVAILABLE 1ST CL.' MUST BE INSERTED ON THE REQUEST. WHEN STATEROOMS OF A SPECIFIC VALUE ARE CALLED FOR AND NO ROOMS OF THIS VALUE ARE AVAILABLE A ROOM OF THE NEXT HIGHER VALUE MAY BE SECURED. THE REQUEST IN THIS INSTANCE SHOULD READ, FOR EXAMPLE,"ONE $2 ROOM OR NEXT HIGHER AVAILABLE 1ST CL.'"

DISCUSSION OR ARGUMENT SEEMS UNNECESSARY TO SHOW THAT A CHOICE IS PERMISSIBLE AMONG FIRST-CLASS ACCOMMODATIONS OF VARYING PRICES. ANY OTHER PROVISION WOULD HAVE REFLECTED UPON THE PRACTICAL KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE OF THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE DEPARTMENTS AND INDEPENDENT ESTABLISHMENTS BY WHOM THE TRAVEL REGULATIONS WERE FRAMED. IT WAS WELL KNOWN TO THE COMMITTEE WHICH WORKED ON THIS MATTER THAT MANY STEAMSHIP COMPANIES LIST ALL CABINS AS FIRST CLASS TO OVERCOME THE PREJUDICE AGAINST THE TERM "SECOND CLASS," THOUGH THE PRICES AND ACCOMMODATIONS VARY QUITE AS WIDELY AS WHERE THE TWO CLASSES ARE RETAINED. IT WAS FOR THIS AND FOR OTHER REASONS THAT THE DISCRETION TO EXCEED MINIMUM PRICE WAS EXPRESSLY RESERVED TO THE DEPARTMENTS. THE REGULATIONS, ARE, HOWEVER, VIRTUALLY SET ASIDE BY SETTLEMENTS OF ACCOUNT WHICH PROCEED UPON THE THEORY THAT THE LOWEST FIRST CLASS ACCOMMODATION, WHERE OBTAINABLE, IS THE LIMIT OF ALLOWABLE EXPENSE TO THE GOVERNMENT OR WHERE A CONVICTION PREVAILS AMONG THE OCEAN CARRIERS THAT SETTLEMENTS WILL BE MADE ON THIS BASIS. SUCH A CONVICTION IS CLEARLY ENTERTAINED BY THE PORTO RICO STEAMSHIP LINE, AS THE ABOVE QUOTED COMMUNICATION INDICATES. IT SEEMS TO BE HELD ELSEWHERE. IT IS USELESS TO TRY TO OVERCOME THIS BELIEF BY REFERENCE ON THE PART OF THE DEPARTMENTS TO THE TRAVEL REGULATIONS. THE CONVINCING ARGUMENT FOR THE STEAMSHIP COMPANIES IS THE AMOUNT OF THE CHECK RECEIVED.

THE DEPARTMENT SEEKS TO CONFORM TO THE PROCEDURE PRESCRIBED FOR THE PREPARATION OF REQUESTS, AND WHERE THERE HAS BEEN OVERSIGHT ON THE PART OF ITS EMPLOYEES IN ANY PARTICULAR, IT IS GLAD TO BE ADVISED THEREOF. FEEL, HOWEVER, THAT CORRECTION OF SUCH A SITUATION AS THAT ABOVE REPRESENTED--- THE POSITIVE REFUSAL OF A STEAMSHIP COMPANY, CITING AS AUTHORITY SETTLEMENTS WHICH MUST HAVE ISSUED FROM YOUR OFFICE, TO FURNISH ACCOMMODATIONS CLEARLY AUTHORIZED BY THE REGULATIONS--- CAN BE ACCOMPLISHED ONLY THROUGH YOUR COOPERATION; AND TO THIS END WE SOLICIT YOUR EARLY AND CAREFUL CONSIDERATION OF THE SUBJECT.

THE LAWS RELATING TO THE REIMBURSEMENT OF EXPENSES INCURRED FOR TRANSPORTATION WHILE TRAVELING ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS HAVE BEEN INVARIABLY CONSTRUED BY THE ACCOUNTING OFFICERS TO LIMIT THE REIMBURSEMENT TO SUCH EXPENSES AS ARE SHOWN TO HAVE BEEN ACTUALLY INCURRED AND NECESSARY FOR THE COMFORT OF THE AVERAGE TRAVELER. 25 COMP. DEC. 487. ANY ATTEMPT TO AUTHORIZE A LARGER TRAVELING ALLOWANCE BASED MERELY ON AN ARBITRARY CLASS DISTINCTION HAS BEEN HELD TO TRANSCEND THE LAW AND TO BE WITHOUT EFFECT. 4 COMP. GEN. 888; AND A 18506, JULY 26, 1927. THE PROVISION IN PARAGRAPH 13 C OF THE STANDARDIZED TRAVEL REGULATIONS THAT "SUPERIOR RAILWAY OR STEAMSHIP ACCOMMODATIONS" MAY BE FURNISHED, IS LIMITED, IT WILL BE NOTED, TO CASES IN WHICH THE EXIGENCIES OF THE TRAVEL REQUIRE THE SUPERIOR ACCOMMODATIONS. THE "EXIGENCIES OF TRAVEL" DO NOT CONTEMPLATE THE PERSONAL PREFERENCE OR OFFICIAL RANK OF THE INDIVIDUAL TRAVELER BUT RATHER SOME NECESSITY FROM THE GOVERNMENT'S STANDPOINT; SUCH, FOR EXAMPLE, AS THE NECESSITY FOR THE TRANSACTION OF OFFICIAL BUSINESS EN ROUTE.

THE PROVISIONS IN PARAGRAPH 29 OF THE STANDARDIZED TRAVEL REGULATIONS REQUIRING THE VALUE OF A STATEROOM FURNISHED TO BE INSERTED IN THE TRANSPORTATION REQUESTS AND PROVIDING THAT, WHEN NO ROOMS OF THAT VALUE ARE AVAILABLE, A ROOM OF THE NEXT HIGHER VALUE MAY BE SECURED, ARE TO BE READ IN CONNECTION WITH THE INSTRUCTIONS UPON TRANSPORTATION REQUESTS; THAT IS, THE VALUE OF A STATEROOM TO BE FURNISHED IS REQUIRED TO BE STATED AS AN INDEX OF WHAT THE CARRIER WILL BE ENTITLED TO PAYMENT FOR UPON THAT PARTICULAR TRANSPORTATION REQUEST, BUT DOES NOT CONTEMPLATE THAT THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE SHALL INSERT A VALUE IN EXCESS OF THE LOWEST FIRST- CLASS ACCOMMODATION UNLESS SOME EXIGENCY OF THE SERVICE REQUIRES THE SUPERIOR ACCOMMODATION. IF THE CARRIER FURNISHES TRANSPORTATION IN EXCESS OF WHAT IS CALLED FOR UPON THE TRANSPORTATION REQUEST, AS IN THE CASE CONSIDERED IN MY DECISION OF MARCH 24, 1928, IT IS, OF COURSE, NECESSARY FOR THE CARRIER TO SUBMIT EVIDENCE THAT IT IS ENTITLED TO PAYMENT FOR THE SERVICE SO FURNISHED, AS THE INSTRUCTIONS UPON THE TRANSPORTATION REQUEST REQUIRE THE CARRIER TO COLLECT ANY EXCESS COST FROM THE TRAVELER. IF THE SERVICE FURNISHED IS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE TRANSPORTATION REQUEST BUT IS IN EXCESS OF THE LOWEST FIRST-CLASS ACCOMMODATIONS, THE CARRIER WILL ORDINARILY BE ENTITLED TO PAYMENT FOR THE SERVICE FURNISHED BUT IT WILL BE INCUMBENT UPON THE TRAVEL TO SHOW THAT HE WAS ENTITLED TO THE SUPERIOR ACCOMMODATIONS.

IT WOULD APPEAR, HOWEVER, FROM YOUR SUBMISSION, THAT THE MATTER WITH WHICH YOU ARE NOW CONCERNED ARISES, NOT FROM THE REGULATIONS OR THEIR INTERPRETATION BY THE DECISIONS OF THIS OFFICE, OR FROM ANY DESIRE TO FURNISH SUPERIOR ACCOMMODATIONS TO RANKING OFFICERS, BUT RATHER FROM THE FACT THAT SOME COASTWISE STEAMERS HAVE DESIGNATED AS FIRST CLASS ALL ACCOMMODATIONS AVAILABLE, IRRESPECTIVE OF THEIR COST OR QUALITY, AND DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN THE QUALITY OF ACCOMMODATIONS FURNISHED BY PRICE ONLY, INSTEAD OF FOLLOWING THE CLASSIFICATION ORDINARILY FOUND ON TRANSOCEANIC STEAMERS. IN SUCH CASES THE REQUIREMENT THAT A TRAVELER BE LIMITED TO THE LOWEST FIRST-CLASS ACCOMMODATIONS IS TO BE TAKEN AS DESCRIPTIVE OF THE CLASS, RATHER THAN AS NAMING THE CLASS, OF ACCOMMODATIONS PERMITTED. AS THE APPLICATION OF SUCH RULE COULD NOT SAFELY BE LEFT TO THE TICKET AGENCIES OF THE VARIOUS CARRIERS IT WOULD APPEAR THAT THE MOST PRACTICAL PROCEDURE TO FOLLOW, SO FAR AS THE CARRIER IS CONCERNED, IS TO RESTRICT THE ACCOMMODATIONS FURNISHED ON TRANSPORTATION REQUESTS TO WHAT THE CARRIER DESIGNATES AS THE LOWEST FIRST -CLASS ACCOMMODATION, IRRESPECTIVE OF THE FACT THAT ON THE PARTICULAR STEAMER IT FALLS BELOW WHAT THE AVERAGE TRAVELER WOULD REQUIRE IF TRAVELING AT HIS OWN EXPENSE. IF THE TRAVELER APPLYING FOR SUCH ACCOMMODATIONS DOES NOT CONSIDER THE LOWEST PRICE ACCOMMODATIONS TO BE IN FACT FIRST-CLASS ACCOMMODATIONS HE MAY SELECT ACCOMMODATIONS SUCH AS WOULD ORDINARILY BE TERMED FIRST CLASS AND PAY THE DIFFERENCE IN CASH CLAIMING REIMBURSEMENT FOR THE CASH DIFFERENCE ON HIS TRAVEL VOUCHER. IN SUCH CASE HE SHOULD DESCRIBE THE ACCOMMODATIONS AVAILABLE AT THE LOWEST PRICE AND THOSE SECURED BY HIM AND STATE WHY THE HIGHER-PRICED ACCOMMODATIONS WERE NECESSARY. THIS WOULD INSURE THAT THE CARRIER HONORING THE TRANSPORTATION REQUEST WOULD RECEIVE PAYMENT TO THE EXTENT OF THE ACCOMMODATIONS SPECIFIED THEREIN WITHOUT ANY NECESSITY FOR THE CARRIER TO FURNISH EVIDENCE OR EXPLANATION OF WHY THE SUPERIOR ACCOMMODATIONS WERE FURNISHED BY IT. THIS FOLLOWS THE PRACTICE ESTABLISHED BY THE STANDARDIZED TRAVEL REGULATIONS WHEN THE TRAVELER USES EXTRA FARE TRAINS, SEE PARAGRAPH 37, AND ALSO FOLLOWS THE INSTRUCTIONS ON THE TRANSPORTATION REQUESTS WHICH CALL FOR TRANSPORTATION "AT LOWEST RATE" AND ON THE REVERSE SIDE THEREOF REQUIRE THAT TRANSPORTATION IN EXCESS OF THAT CALLED FOR BY THE REQUEST MUST BE PAID FOR BY THE TRAVELER WHEN OBTAINED AND NOT BILLED AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT. ANY DISALLOWANCES CAUSED BY PROCURING ACCOMMODATIONS SUPERIOR IN FACT TO THE LOWEST FIRST-CLASS ACCOMMODATIONS WOULD THEN FALL UPON THE TRAVELER PROCURING THE SAME WHO WOULD BE THE PROPER ONE TO SUFFER SHOULD HIS PERSONAL PREFERENCES CALL FOR ACCOMMODATIONS BEYOND THAT TO WHICH HE IS ENTITLED UNDER THE LAW AND REGULATIONS.