B-114689, AUGUST 6, 1953, 33 COMP. GEN. 61

B-114689: Aug 6, 1953

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THE TERM "PERSONAL EFFECTS" IS NOT SYNONYMOUS WITH THE TERM "PERSONAL PROPERTY. 1953: REFERENCE IS MADE TO THE LETTER OF APRIL 10. (2) IF THE ANSWER TO (1) IS IN THE AFFIRMATIVE MAY THE PRIVATELY-OWNED AIRPLANE AND THE PRIVATELY-OWNED SAILBOAT REFERRED TO ABOVE BE SHIPPED AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THE FOREIGN SERVICE ACT OF 1946 AND FOREIGN SERVICE TRAVEL REGULATIONS PROMULGATED THEREUNDER. IT WAS STATED THAT THE TERM "PERSONAL FFECTS" HAD BEEN CONSTRUED. THE TERM "PERSONAL EFFECTS" WAS INTENDED TO BE SYNONYMOUS WITH "PERSONAL PROPERTY" WAS PREDICATED UPON THE LEGISLATIVE HISTORY OF THE 1940 ACT. AS EVIDENCE BY THE FOLLOWING EXCERPT FROM THAT DECISION: THE PURPOSE OF THE 1940 STATUTE WAS TO PROVIDE UNIFORMITY IN THE WEIGHT ALLOWANCES AND RULES AND REGULATIONS WITH RESPECT TO SHIPMENT OF PROPERTY OF CIVILIAN OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE.

B-114689, AUGUST 6, 1953, 33 COMP. GEN. 61

TRANSPORTATION - HOUSEHOLD AND PERSONAL EFFECTS OF FOREIGN SERVICE PERSONNEL - STATUS OF AIRPLANES AND SAILBOATS UNDER SECTION 911 OF THE FOREIGN SERVICE ACT OF 1946, WHICH AUTHORIZES THE SECRETARY OF STATE TO PAY THE COST OF TRANSPORTING FURNITURE AND HOUSEHOLD AND PERSONAL EFFECTS OF OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES OF THE FOREIGN SERVICE, THE TERM "PERSONAL EFFECTS" IS NOT SYNONYMOUS WITH THE TERM "PERSONAL PROPERTY," AND THEREFORE, THE EXPENSES INCIDENT TO THE TRANSPORTATION OF A FOREIGN SERVICE OFFICER'S PRIVATELY-OWNED AIRPLANE OR SAILBOAT MAY NOT BE PAID UNDER THE AUTHORITY FOR THE TRANSPORTATION OF FURNITURE, HOUSEHOLD AND PERSONAL EFFECTS.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL WARREN TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE, AUGUST 6, 1953:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO THE LETTER OF APRIL 10, 1953, FROM THE UNDER SECRETARY FOR ADMINISTRATION RELATING TO GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE AUDIT EXCEPTIONS TO CERTAIN CHARGES FOR PACKING AN AIRPLANE FOR SHIPMENT AND TRANSPORTATION OF A PRIVATELY OWNED SAILBOAT, BOTH AS PERSONAL EFFECTS OF FOREIGN SERVICE OFFICERS. THE LETTER CITES THE DEFINITION OF "PERSONAL EFFECTS" IN 21 COMP. GEN. 40 AS BASIS FOR SUCH CHARGES, AND REQUESTS A DECISION AS TO:

* * * (1) WHETHER THE TERM "PERSONAL EFFECTS" AS USED IN THE FOREIGN SERVICE ACT OF 1946 MAY BE INTERPRETED AS BEING SYNONYMOUS WITH THE TERM "PERSONAL PROPERTY"; (2) IF THE ANSWER TO (1) IS IN THE AFFIRMATIVE MAY THE PRIVATELY-OWNED AIRPLANE AND THE PRIVATELY-OWNED SAILBOAT REFERRED TO ABOVE BE SHIPPED AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THE FOREIGN SERVICE ACT OF 1946 AND FOREIGN SERVICE TRAVEL REGULATIONS PROMULGATED THEREUNDER; AND (3) EXCEPT FOR SUCH PERSONAL EFFECTS AS MAY BE SPECIFICALLY EXCLUDED BY FOREIGN SERVICE TRAVEL REGULATIONS MAY OFFICERS OR EMPLOYEES TRAVELING UNDER SUCH REGULATIONS EXERCISE PERSONAL DISCRETION, WITHIN PRESCRIBED WEIGHT ALLOWANCES, IN THE MATTER OF THE SELECTION OF PERSONAL EFFECTS TO BE SHIPPED?

SECTION 911 OF THE FOREIGN SERVICE ACT OF AUGUST 13, 1946, 60 STAT. 1026, AUTHORIZES THE SECRETARY OF STATE TO PAY, UNDER SUCH REGULATIONS AS HE MAY PRESCRIBE, THE COST OF TRANSPORTING FURNITURE AND HOUSEHOLD AND PERSONAL EFFECTS OF OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES UNDER THE CONDITIONS SPECIFIED IN THE STATUTE. WHILE IN 21 COMP. GEN. 40, IT WAS STATED THAT THE TERM "PERSONAL FFECTS" HAD BEEN CONSTRUED,"IN RELATION TO THE WAY IN WHICH IT HAS BEEN USED," TO INCLUDE ALL FORMS OF PERSONAL PROPERTY, THE CONCLUSION REACHED IN SAID DECISION THAT, UNDER THE ACT OF OCTOBER 10, 1940, 54 STAT. 1105, THE TERM "PERSONAL EFFECTS" WAS INTENDED TO BE SYNONYMOUS WITH "PERSONAL PROPERTY" WAS PREDICATED UPON THE LEGISLATIVE HISTORY OF THE 1940 ACT, AS EVIDENCE BY THE FOLLOWING EXCERPT FROM THAT DECISION:

THE PURPOSE OF THE 1940 STATUTE WAS TO PROVIDE UNIFORMITY IN THE WEIGHT ALLOWANCES AND RULES AND REGULATIONS WITH RESPECT TO SHIPMENT OF PROPERTY OF CIVILIAN OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE. IN THE REPORTS ON THE BILL BY THE CONGRESSIONAL COMMITTEES THERE WAS SPECIFICALLY CITED, AS EMPHASIZING THE NEED FOR UNIFORMITY AS TO WEIGHT ALLOWANCES, ETC., THE ACT OF MARCH 4, 1911, HERE UNDER CONSIDERATION, ALTHOUGH SAID ACT RELATES TO "EFFECTS AND PERSONAL PROPERTY.' IT IS EVIDENT FROM SUCH REPORTS THAT THE TERM "PERSONAL EFFECTS, WAS INTENDED TO BE SYNONYMOUS WITH "PERSONAL PROPERTY," AND IT IS OBVIOUS THAT ANY OTHER CONSTRUCTION OF THE TERM WOULD, IN A LARGE MEASURE, DEFEAT THE PRIMARY OBJECT SOUGHT TO BE ACCOMPLISHED BY THE STATUTE--- THE ESTABLISHMENT OF UNIFORM WEIGHT ALLOWANCES AND RULES AND REGULATIONS WITH RESPECT TO SHIPMENTS OF EMPLOYEES' EFFECTS.

NO SUCH LEGISLATIVE INTENT HAS BEEN FOUND IN THE CASE OF THE FOREIGN SERVICE ACT PROVISIONS FOR SHIPMENT OF FURNITURE, HOUSEHOLD GOODS, AND PERSONAL EFFECTS. IT IS RELEVANT TO OBSERVE THAT THE CONGRESS COULD HAVE USED THE TERM "PERSONAL PROPERTY" WITHOUT ANYTHING MORE AND THUS COVERED PERSONAL PROPERTY OF ALL DESCRIPTIONS.

ACCORDINGLY, IN THE ABSENCE OF A SHOWING OF A LEGISLATIVE INTENT TO THE CONTRARY, IT IS THE VIEW OF THIS OFFICE THAT UNDER SECTION 911 OF THE FOREIGN SERVICE ACT THE TERM "PERSONAL EFFECTS" IS NOT SYNONYMOUS WITH THE TERM "PERSONAL PROPERTY," THERE EVIDENTLY BEING CONTEMPLATED A MORE RESTRICTED DEFINITION OF PERSONAL EFFECTS. THUS THE EXPENSES INCIDENT TO THE TRANSPORTATION OF AN AIRPLANE AND A SAILBOAT MAY NOT BE PAID UNDER THE AUTHORITY FOR TRANSPORTATION OF FURNITURE, HOUSEHOLD AND PERSONAL EFFECTS. YOUR FIRST AND SECOND QUESTIONS ARE ANSWERED ACCORDINGLY.

WHILE THIS OFFICE RECOGNIZES THE BOARD REGULATORY AUTHORITY GIVEN TO YOU BY THE TRAVEL AND TRANSPORTATION PROVISIONS OF THE FOREIGN SERVICE ACT, IT FOLLOWS FROM THE ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS ONE AND TWO THAT THE THIRD QUESTION PRESENTED MUST BE ANSWERED IN THE NEGATIVE.