A-50753, SEPTEMBER 2, 1933, 13 COMP. GEN. 67

A-50753: Sep 2, 1933

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DO NOT PRECLUDE AN ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE FROM MAINTAINING A MESS IN FIELD PARTIES FOR EMPLOYEES IN A TRAVEL STATUS AS A PART OF THE PROJECT FOR WHICH THE PERSONNEL HAVE BEEN EMPLOYED. IF THE PROPER DEDUCTIONS ARE MADE FROM THE PER DIEM ALLOWANCE OF THE EMPLOYEES IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTION 47 (A) OF THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS. AS FOLLOWS: REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR DECISION A-47822 DATED APRIL 5. IT IS BELIEVED DESIRABLE TO HAVE AN INTERPRETATION OF THE DECISION AS APPLYING TO THIS WORK. THE TOTAL COST OF WHICH WAS MORE THAN $15. THE PROJECTS INVOLVED ARE OFTENTIMES IN MOUNTAINOUS COUNTRY AT ISOLATED POINTS AS FAR AS 20 TO 30 MILES FROM THE NEAREST PLACE WHERE MEALS AND LODGING ARE GENERALLY AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC.

A-50753, SEPTEMBER 2, 1933, 13 COMP. GEN. 67

SUBSISTENCE - MEALS - FIELD PARTIES SECTIONS 207 AND 208 OF THE ECONOMY ACT OF JUNE 30, 1932, 47 STAT. 405, DO NOT PRECLUDE AN ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE FROM MAINTAINING A MESS IN FIELD PARTIES FOR EMPLOYEES IN A TRAVEL STATUS AS A PART OF THE PROJECT FOR WHICH THE PERSONNEL HAVE BEEN EMPLOYED, NOR FROM ARRANGING DIRECTLY WITH CONTRACTOR OR OTHER PRIVATE PARTY TO SUBSIST FEDERAL EMPLOYEES IN A TRAVEL STATUS AT REMOTE PLACES, IF THE PROPER DEDUCTIONS ARE MADE FROM THE PER DIEM ALLOWANCE OF THE EMPLOYEES IN ACCORDANCE WITH SECTION 47 (A) OF THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS, AND PROVIDED THAT THE AMOUNT PAID BY THE GOVERNMENT TO A THIRD PARTY FOR MEALS AND/OR LODGING DOES NOT EXCEED THE AMOUNT OF THE DEDUCTION FROM THE EMPLOYEES' PER DIEM.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL TO THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE, SEPTEMBER 2, 1933:

CONSIDERATION HAS BEEN GIVEN TO YOUR LETTER OF AUGUST 25, 1933, AS FOLLOWS:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR DECISION A-47822 DATED APRIL 5, AND MAY 13, 1933, TO THE SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR CONCERNING SUBSISTENCE OF EMPLOYEES IN THE SURVEYING SERVICE OF THE GENERAL LAND OFFICE.

THE BUREAU OF PUBLIC ROADS OF THIS DEPARTMENT ENGAGES IN FIELD WORK WHICH MAY BE AFFECTED BY THIS DECISION, AND IT IS BELIEVED DESIRABLE TO HAVE AN INTERPRETATION OF THE DECISION AS APPLYING TO THIS WORK.

DURING THE FISCAL YEAR 1933 THE BUREAU OF PUBLIC ROADS MADE SURVEYS AND SUPERVISED THE CONSTRUCTION OF ROADS IN THE NATIONAL FORESTS, THE NATIONAL PARKS, AND ON PUBLIC LANDS ON APPROXIMATELY 684 PROJECTS, THE TOTAL COST OF WHICH WAS MORE THAN $15,500,000. RECENT REPORTS SHOWED 1,119 MILES UNDER CONSTRUCTION AND 719 MILES OF ACTIVE SURVEYS IN THE NATIONAL FORESTS, 183 MILES UNDER CONSTRUCTION AND 175 MILES OF ACTIVE SURVEYS ON PUBLIC LANDS, AND 298 MILES UNDER CONSTRUCTION AND 148 MILES OF ACTIVE SURVEYS IN THE NATIONAL PARKS.

THE PROJECTS INVOLVED ARE OFTENTIMES IN MOUNTAINOUS COUNTRY AT ISOLATED POINTS AS FAR AS 20 TO 30 MILES FROM THE NEAREST PLACE WHERE MEALS AND LODGING ARE GENERALLY AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC. PACK TRAINS ARE OFTEN THE ONLY MEANS BY WHICH SUPPLIES CAN BE BROUGHT TO THE PROJECT. UNDER THESE CONDITIONS IT IS NECESSARY TO ESTABLISH CAMPS AND OPERATE MESSES.

ON CONSTRUCTION WORK UNDER CONTRACT THE CONTRACTOR ORDINARILY OPERATES A MESS FOR THE LABORERS IN HIS EMPLOY. TWO OR THREE PERMANENT EMPLOYEES OF THE BUREAU ARE TEMPORARILY ASSIGNED ON EACH PROJECT TO MEASURE AND CHECK QUANTITIES, INSPECT THE WORK, AND RECOMMEND APPROVAL OR DISAPPROVAL OF THE PROGRESS VOUCHERS. THESE EMPLOYEES ARE IN A TRAVEL STATUS, LETTERS OF AUTHORITY HAVING BEEN ISSUED IN WHICH PER DIEM IS AUTHORIZED IN LIEU OF ACTUAL EXPENSES. IN MANY CASES THE ONLY WAY TO SECURE THEIR MEALS IS AT THE CONTRACTOR'S MESS. IT IS UNDESIRABLE TO ALLOW THE GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES IN CHARGE OF INSPECTING THE WORK AND WHO ARE PRIMARILY RESPONSIBLE FOR MEASURING THE QUANTITIES AND DETERMINING THE AMOUNTS EARNED BY THE CONTRACTOR TO HAVE ANY PERSONAL FINANCIAL DEALINGS WITH HIM. THE FEDERAL ENGINEER IN CHARGE SHOULD NOT BE PLACED IN A POSITION WHICH WOULD GIVE CREDENCE TO A CHARGE, EITHER WARRANTED OR UNWARRANTED, THAT HIS OFFICIAL DEALINGS WITH THE CONTRACTOR HAD BEEN BIASED BY PERSONAL ARRANGEMENTS FOR MEALS AND/OR LODGING. ACCORDINGLY, IT HAS BEEN THE PRACTICE OF THE BUREAU TO PAY THE CONTRACTOR ON A VOUCHER (FORM 1034) FOR MEALS AND/OR LODGING FURNISHED TO GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, AND TO MAKE DEDUCTIONS FROM THE AUTHORIZED PER DIEM ACCOUNTS OF THE EMPLOYEES UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF PARAGRAPH 47 (A) OF THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS. THIS ELIMINATES ANY QUESTIONS THAT MIGHT RAISE DIFFICULT PERSONNEL AND ADMINISTRATIVE PROBLEMS.

ON LOCATION SURVEYS THE PARTY USUALLY CONSISTS OF FROM FIVE TO TEN MEN. THEY ARE IN A TRAVEL STATUS, HAVING LETTERS OF AUTHORITY AUTHORIZING A PER DIEM IN LIEU OF ACTUAL EXPENSES. THE VERY NATURE AND LOCATION OF THE WORK REQUIRE THE OPERATION OF A MESS. TO REQUIRE THE EMPLOYEES THEMSELVES TO FINANCE AND OPERATE A MESS WOULD, IN THE OPINION OF THE BUREAU, BE ADMINISTRATIVELY OBJECTIONABLE. THE LOWER SALARIED EMPLOYEES ON THESE SURVEY PARTIES MIGHT HAVE DIFFICULTY FINANCING THEMSELVES PENDING REIMBURSEMENT. EVEN WHERE THIS MAY NOT BE THE CASE, PAST EXPERIENCE IN THIS AND OTHER BUREAUS HAS INDICATED THAT THE CHIEF OF PARTY GENERALLY WILL ASSUME THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR AND OPERATE THE MESS, HIRING A COOK OR ASSIGNING A LABORER TO THE JOB, SUPERVISING THE PURCHASE OF SUPPLIES, AND GENERALLY DOMINATING THE SITUATION. HE WILL GENERALLY FINANCE THE OPERATING COST, HAVING THE EMPLOYEES ENDORSE THEIR PER DIEM CHECKS OVER TO HIM. WHETHER JUSTIFIABLE OR NOT, ANY DISGRUNTLED EMPLOYEE WILL HAVE A TENDENCY TO ACCUSE THE CHIEF OF PARTY OF OPERATING A MESS FOR HIS PERSONAL GAIN. THE PROCEDURE MAY EASILY LEAD TO ABUSES. THE EXPERIENCE OF THIS DEPARTMENT HAS SHOWN THAT ANY ARRANGEMENT WHEREBY THE SUPERVISORY OFFICER HAS PERSONAL FINANCIAL DEALINGS WITH HIS SUBORDINATES MAY RESULT IN DISAFFECTION AMONG THE EMPLOYEES. MANY DIFFICULT PERSONNEL PROBLEMS HAVE ARISEN FROM SUCH CONDITIONS. TO ELIMINATE THIS, THE PROCEDURE OF THE BUREAU HAS BEEN TO OPERATE A GOVERNMENT MESS AND TO MAKE DEDUCTIONS FROM THE AUTHORIZED PER DIEM ACCOUNTS OF THE EMPLOYEES FOR MEALS AND/OR LODGINGS FURNISHED BY THE GOVERNMENT UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF PARAGRAPH 47 (A) OF THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS.

IN SOME CASES IT IS POSSIBLE TO ARRANGE WITH NEARBY RANCHERS, FARMERS, OR LUMBERING CONCERNS, ETC., TO BOARD AND LODGE THE ENTIRE PARTY. SUCH ARRANGEMENTS CAN OFTEN BE MADE BY THE GOVERNMENT WHERE IT WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE FOR AN INDIVIDUAL TO SECURE ACCOMMODATIONS. VERY SATISFACTORY RATES HAVE BEEN OBTAINED.

LETTERS OF AUTHORITY ARE ISSUED IN ALL CASES TO EMPLOYEES WHO ARE IN A TRAVEL STATUS, AUTHORIZING A PER DIEM IN LIEU OF ACTUAL EXPENSES. THE GENERAL PROCEDURE HAS BEEN TO ALLOW THESE EMPLOYEES ON SURVEY PARTIES, INSPECTION, AND CONSTRUCTION WORK $3.00 PER DIEM WHILE TRAVELING TO AND FROM PROJECTS OR BETWEEN PROJECTS, AND FROM $1.30 TO $2.00 PER DIEM WHILE STATIONED ON THE PROJECTS. IN THE MAJORITY OF CASES WHERE MEALS ARE SECURED BY THE GOVERNMENT FROM RANCHERS, FARMERS, CONTRACTORS, ETC., THE THE PRICES HAVE RANGED FROM 35 TO 50 CENTS PER MEAL. WHERE THE GOVERNMENT OPERATES A MESS, THE COSTS HAVE RANGED FROM 30 CENTS TO 50 CENTS PER MEAL. IN NO CASE HAVE THE ACTUAL COSTS OF MEALS FURNISHED EITHER FROM A GOVERNMENT MESS OR UNDER CONTRACTS MADE BY THE GOVERNMENT EXCEEDED THE MAXIMUM PER DIEM AUTHORIZED BY LAW.

YOUR DECISION IS THEREFORE REQUESTED ON THE FOLLOWING THREE QUESTIONS:

1. ON CONSTRUCTION WORK UNDER CONTRACT, MAY CONTRACTS BE MADE BY THE GOVERNMENT WITH THE CONTRACTORS TO FURNISH MEALS AND/OR LODGING TO THE GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES WHO ARE IN A TRAVEL STATUS, PAYMENT THEREFOR BEING MADE ON VOUCHER (FORM 1034), DEDUCTIONS BEING MADE FOR ANY MEALS OR LODGING FURNISHED FROM THE AUTHORIZED PER DIEM ACCOUNTS OF THE EMPLOYEES IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PROVISIONS OF PARAGRAPH 47 (A) OF THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS?

2. ON SURVEY PROJECTS, WHERE PRACTICALLY ALL THE EMPLOYEES ARE IN A TRAVEL STATUS, MAY A MESS BE OPERATED BY THE GOVERNMENT, DEDUCTIONS TO BE MADE FOR THE MEALS AND/OR LODGING FURNISHED FROM THE AUTHORIZED PER DIEMS OF THE EMPLOYEES IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PROVISIONS OF PARAGRAPH 47 (A) OF THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS?

3. ON BOTH SURVEY AND CONSTRUCTION WORK, WHERE ORDINARY FACILITIES FOR OBTAINING MEALS AND LODGING ARE NOT AVAILABLE, MAY THE GOVERNMENT ENTER INTO CONTRACTS WITH THIRD PARTIES (FARMERS, RANCHERS, ETC.) FOR THE FURNISHING OF MEALS AND/OR LODGING FOR THE GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, DEDUCTIONS BEING MADE FOR SUCH MEALS AND/OR LODGING FROM THE AUTHORIZED PER DIEMS OF SUCH EMPLOYEES IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PROVISIONS OF PARAGRAPH 47 (A) OF THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS?

THE DECISIONS OF APRIL 5, 1933, AND MAY 13, 1933, 12 COMP. GEN. 634, WHICH YOU CITE, INVOLVED GENERAL LAND OFFICE SURVEYING PARTIES WHERE IT WAS PROPOSED TO SUBSIST THE MEN WHILE IN A TRAVEL STATUS IN CAMP WITHOUT REGARD TO A PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE AS REQUIRED BY SECTIONS 207 AND 208 OF THE ECONOMY ACT OF JUNE 30, 1932, 47 STAT. 405. IN OTHER WORDS, IT WAS PROPOSED THERE TO FURNISH THE EMPLOYEES SUBSISTENCE IN KIND WHILE IN A TRAVEL STATUS WITH NO REGARD GIVEN TO THE TERMS OF THE ECONOMY ACT REQUIRING REIMBURSEMENT FOR TRAVEL EXPENSES TO BE ON A PER DIEM BASIS ONLY.

IN EACH OF THE THREE PROPOSITIONS HERE PRESENTED IT IS UNDERSTOOD THAT THE REIMBURSEMENT TO THE EMPLOYEE IS TO BE MADE ON A PER DIEM BASIS ONLY AND THAT DEDUCTION FROM SUCH ALLOWANCE IS TO BE MADE ON ACCOUNT OF THE MEALS AND/OR LODGING PROVIDED BY THE GOVERNMENT IN EITHER OF THE THREE WAYS INDICATED--- DIRECT, THROUGH THE CONTRACTOR, OR THROUGH A PRIVATE PARTY--- IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE TERMS OF SECTION 47 (A) OF THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS.

A PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE, AS WELL AS ACTUAL EXPENSES, WAS AUTHORIZED TO BE ALLOWED PRIOR TO THE ECONOMY ACT, AND WITH REGARD TO DEDUCTION THEREFROM OF THE COST OF MEALS AND LODGING FURNISHED BY THE GOVERNMENT, SECTION 47 (A) PROVIDES:

* * * IF ON A PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE BASIS, ONE FIFTH OF THE AUTHORIZED PER DIEM RATE MUST BE DEDUCTED FOR EACH MEAL AND/OR LODGING FURNISHED WITHOUT CHARGE.

IN DECISION OF MARCH 16, 1933, A-47331, IT WAS HELD:

THE SUBSISTENCE ACT OF 1926, AS AMENDED BY THE ECONOMY ACT, SUPRA, RELATES TO THE RIGHT OF EMPLOYEES TO REIMBURSEMENT FOR EXPENSES INCURRED BY THEM BY THE PAYMENT OF PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE AND IS NOT REQUIRED TO BE APPLIED TO SITUATIONS IN WHICH, DUE TO QUESTIONS OF PUBLIC NECESSITY, SUBSISTENCE IN KIND IS FURNISHED. NO OBJECTION IS THEREFORE SEEN TO THE CONTINUATION OF THE PAST PRACTICE OF SUPPLYING INDIAN EMPLOYEES, WHEN IN A TRAVEL STATUS, ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS, WITH ORDERS FOR FOOD AND FORAGE SUPPLIES, PAYMENTS FOR SUCH SUPPLIES BEING MADE DIRECT TO THE PERSON OR PERSONS BY WHOM THEY ARE SUPPLIED, OR TO THE FURNISHING OF SUBSISTENCE SUPPLIES IN KIND TO PARTIES ENGAGED ON ROAD WORK.

WHERE A PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE HAS BEEN AUTHORIZED AND LODGING IS FURNISHED IN THE MANNER INDICATED IN YOUR LETTER OF NOVEMBER 28, 1932, ONE FIFTH OF THE PER DIEM SHOULD BE DEDUCTED FOR EACH NIGHT'S LODGING SO FURNISHED.

SECTIONS 207 AND 208 OF THE ECONOMY ACT OF JUNE 30, 1932, SUPRA, NEED NOT BE SO APPLIED AS TO PRECLUDE AN ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE FROM MAINTAINING A MESS IN FIELD PARTIES AS A PART OF THE PROJECT FOR WHICH THE PERSONNEL HAVE BEEN EMPLOYED UNDER THE CONDITIONS DESCRIBED IN YOUR LETTER, DEDUCTION FROM THE PER DIEM ALLOWANCE OF THE EMPLOYEES TO BE MADE AS REQUIRED BY THE TRAVEL REGULATIONS, NOR TO PRECLUDE AN ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE FROM ARRANGING DIRECTLY WITH A CONTRACTOR OR OTHER PRIVATE PARTY TO SUBSIST SUCH EMPLOYEES IN A TRAVEL STATUS AT REMOTE PLACES UNDER THE CONDITIONS STATED IN YOUR LETTER, PROVIDED THE PROPER DEDUCTIONS ARE MADE FROM THE PER DIEM ALLOWANCE OF THE EMPLOYEES; PROVIDED, IN THE CASE OF OBTAINING THE MEALS AND/OR LODGINGS FROM A THIRD PARTY, THE AMOUNT PAID BY THE GOVERNMENT THEREFOR DOES NOT EXCEED THE AMOUNT OF THE DEDUCTION FROM THE EMPLOYEES' PER DIEM.