B-12037, SEPTEMBER 5, 1940, 20 COMP. GEN. 125

B-12037: Sep 5, 1940

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1940: REFERENCE IS MADE TO AN ENDORSEMENT. IS MOST ACUTE DUE TO THE FACT THAT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO SECURE ACCOMMODATIONS AT THE LOWEST FIRST-CLASS RATE ON COMMERCIAL STEAMERS LEAVING HONOLULU. THE ONLY ACCOMMODATIONS THAT ARE AVAILABLE APPARENTLY EXCEED THE COST OF THE MINIMUM FIRST-CLASS RATE ON AN AVERAGE OF ABOUT $25.00 PERSON. IT WILL COST THE GOVERNMENT CONSIDERABLY MORE IF THESE EMPLOYEES ARE KEPT IN HONOLULU ON A PER DIEM BASIS AWAITING TRANSPORTATION AT THE LOWEST FIRST-CLASS RATE RATHER THAN TO ALLOW THEM TO SECURE ACCOMMODATIONS ON STEAMERS AT THE LOWEST AVAILABLE FIRST-CLASS RATE. 3. YOUR DECISION IS REQUESTED AS TO WHETHER IT WOULD BE PERMISSIBLE IN THE PRESENT EMERGENCY TO INTERPRET THE ACT REFERRED TO.

B-12037, SEPTEMBER 5, 1940, 20 COMP. GEN. 125

TRAVELING EXPENSES - FARES - LOWEST FIRST CLASS SECTION 10 OF THE ACT OF MARCH 3, 1933, 47 STAT. 1516, PROHIBITS PAYMENT FROM APPROPRIATED FUNDS OF FARES OF GOVERNMENT OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES IN EXCESS OF THE LOWEST FIRST-CLASS RATE FOR THE TRANSPORTATION FACILITY USED, NOTWITHSTANDING THE DELAY AWAITING AVAILABLE TRANSPORTATION MAY RESULT IN THE PAYMENT OF PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE IN EXCESS OF THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE LOWEST FIRST CLASS FARE AND THE NEXT HIGHER AVAILABLE TRANSPORTATION.

ACTING COMPTROLLER GENERAL ELLIOTT TO THE SECRETARY OF WAR, SEPTEMBER 5, 1940:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO AN ENDORSEMENT, DATED AUGUST 23, 1940, FROM THE OFFICE, CHIEF OF ENGINEERS, TO THIS OFFICE, AS FOLLOWS:

1. THE MATTER OF OBTAINING TRANSPORTATION FOR NUMEROUS EMPLOYEES RETURNING TO THE UNITED STATES FROM HONOLULU, T.H., IS MOST ACUTE DUE TO THE FACT THAT IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO SECURE ACCOMMODATIONS AT THE LOWEST FIRST-CLASS RATE ON COMMERCIAL STEAMERS LEAVING HONOLULU, AS PROVIDED IN THE ACT OF MARCH 3, 1933.

2. THE ONLY ACCOMMODATIONS THAT ARE AVAILABLE APPARENTLY EXCEED THE COST OF THE MINIMUM FIRST-CLASS RATE ON AN AVERAGE OF ABOUT $25.00 PERSON. VIEW OF THE EXISTING CONDITIONS, IT WILL COST THE GOVERNMENT CONSIDERABLY MORE IF THESE EMPLOYEES ARE KEPT IN HONOLULU ON A PER DIEM BASIS AWAITING TRANSPORTATION AT THE LOWEST FIRST-CLASS RATE RATHER THAN TO ALLOW THEM TO SECURE ACCOMMODATIONS ON STEAMERS AT THE LOWEST AVAILABLE FIRST-CLASS RATE.

3. YOUR DECISION IS REQUESTED AS TO WHETHER IT WOULD BE PERMISSIBLE IN THE PRESENT EMERGENCY TO INTERPRET THE ACT REFERRED TO, AS ALLOWING PAYMENT OF THE LOWEST AVAILABLE FIRST-CLASS RATE, AS IT WOULD VERY OBVIOUSLY BE TO THE DETRIMENT OF THE GOVERNMENT SERVICE TO REQUIRE THESE EMPLOYEES TO REMAIN IN HONOLULU FOR AN INDEFINITE PERIOD AT CONSIDERABLE EXPENSE TO THE GOVERNMENT.

4.YOUR EARLY CONSIDERATION OF THIS QUESTION WILL BE APPRECIATED, AS TIME IS OF THE UTMOST IMPORTANCE.

THE BASIC LETTER, DATED AUGUST 12, 1940, TRANSMITTED WITH THE ENDORSEMENT, IS FROM THE DISTRICT ENGINEER, HONOLULU, T.H., TO THE DIVISION ENGINEER, SOUTH PACIFIC DIVISION, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF., AND READS AS FOLLOWS:

1. CONSIDERABLE DIFFICULTY IS BEING EXPERIENCED BY THIS OFFICE IN OBTAINING WATER TRANSPORTATION FOR EMPLOYEES AT MIDWAY WHO HAVE COMPLETED THEIR EMPLOYMENT AND ARE TO BE RETURNED TO THE MAINLAND BY THE GOVERNMENT UNDER THE TERMS OF THEIR CONTRACT AGREEMENT. DUE TO THE USUAL HEAVY SEASONAL TRAVEL BETWEEN HONOLULU AND THE MAINLAND, LOCAL OFFICES OF THE MATSON NAVIGATION COMPANY AND THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT LINES INFORM THIS OFFICE THAT ALL CABIN CLASS AND MINIMUM FIRST-CLASS ACCOMMODATIONS ON STEAMERS SAILING FOR THE MAINLAND DURING THE NEXT THREE MONTHS WERE RESERVED FOR SOME TIME. ONLY ACCOMMODATIONS WHICH CAN BE OBTAINED IN SOME CASES ARE THOSE AT A COST AT LEAST $25.00 IN EXCESS OF THE MINIMUM FIRST- CLASS RATE.

2. THE ARMY TRANSPORT SCHEDULE PROVIDES FOR ONLY ONE SAILING PER MONTH BETWEEN HONOLULU AND SAN FRANCISCO AND EVEN IF ACCOMMODATIONS SHOULD BE AVAILABLE FOR THE MIDWAY EMPLOYEES ON ONE OF THESE SAILINGS, CONSIDERABLE DISSATISFACTION IS EXPRESSED BY RETURNING EMPLOYEES DUE TO THE FACT THEY ARE COMPELLED TO REMAIN IN HONOLULU IN SOME CASES TWO TO THREE WEEKS AFTER THEIR ARRIVAL FROM MIDWAY BEFORE PROCEEDING TO THE MAINLAND. FOR EXAMPLE, THE U.S. NAVY VESSEL RICHMOND ARRIVED IN HONOLULU FROM MIDWAY AUGUST 8, 1940, WITH 23 ENGINEER DEPARTMENT EMPLOYEES, EIGHT OF WHOM WERE ENTITLED TO TRANSPORTATION TO THE MAINLAND. MINIMUM FIRST-CLASS OR CABIN-CLASS ACCOMMODATION FOR THESE EMPLOYEES ON ANY OF THE LINERS UNDER THE MATSON NAVIGATION COMPANY OR THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT LINES SAILING FOR THE MAINLAND DURING THIS MONTH ARE NOT OBTAINABLE AND NO ASSURANCE CAN BE GIVEN AS TO WHEN SUCH ACCOMMODATIONS MAY BE AVAILABLE. THE NEXT ARMY TRANSPORT IS SCHEDULED TO LEAVE HERE AUGUST 28, 1940, AND EVEN IF ACCOMMODATIONS CAN BE OBTAINED FOR THESE EIGHT EMPLOYEES, IT WILL MEAN A WAIT OF THREE WEEKS IN HONOLULU. A FEW OF THE EMPLOYEES HAVE PAID THE EXCESS COST OF THE MINIMUM FIRST-CLASS TICKET OUT OF THEIR OWN POCKETS RATHER THAN WAIT UNTIL THE NEXT SAILING OF THE ARMY TRANSPORT ON AUGUST 28, 1940.

3.IT HAS BEEN THE POLICY OF THIS OFFICE TO AUTHORIZE PAYMENT OF PER DIEM ALLOWANCES FROM $3.00 TO $5.00 TO MIDWAY EMPLOYEES WHILE IN HONOLULU WAITING FOR TRANSPORTATION TO THE MAINLAND. THE RATE OF PER DIEM SPECIFIED IS DETERMINED ON THE BASIS OF THE SALARY RECEIVED BY THE EMPLOYEE. TIME IN HONOLULU WAITING FOR WATER TRANSPORTATION IS NOT CHARGED TO THEIR EARNED OVERTIME, COMPENSATORY TIME OR ANNUAL LEAVE, SINCE THE EMPLOYEES ARE CONSIDERED TO BE ON TRAVEL STATUS.

4. CONSIDERING THE COST TO THE DEPARTMENT IN PAYMENT OF SALARIES TO THESE EMPLOYEES AND THEIR TRAVEL EXPENSES WHILE WAITING IN HONOLULU, IT APPEARS TO BE IN THE INTEREST OF THE GOVERNMENT THAT THEY BE RETURNED TO THEIR PLACE OF ORIGINAL APPOINTMENT AT THE EARLIEST POSSIBLE DATE AND THAT IF MINIMUM FIRST-CLASS ACCOMMODATIONS ARE NOT AVAILABLE, THE LOWEST AVAILABLE ACCOMMODATION BE OBTAINED. UNDER AN INTERPRETATION OF THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE OF THE ACT OF MARCH 3, 1933, 47 STAT. 1516, CITED BELOW, PAYMENT TO CARRIERS FOR TRANSPORTATION FURNISHED UPON GOVERNMENT TRANSPORTATION REQUESTS IS RESTRICTED TO THE LOWEST FIRST-CLASS FARE. THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE, IS AN EXCEPTION TAKEN TO PAYMENT BY THIS OFFICE TO THE MATSON NAVIGATION COMPANY ON VOUCHER 134, AUGUST 1936, ACCOUNTS OF CAPTAIN CHARLES W. STEWART, C.E., FOR PASSAGE FURNISHED AN EMPLOYEE FROM SAN FRANCISCO TO HONOLULU AT A COST OF $130.00, WHICH WAS $5.00 IN EXCESS OF THE MINIMUM FIRST-CLASS RATE, RULED THAT THE LIMITATION FIXED IN THE ACT REFERRED TO ABOVE ADMITS NO EXCEPTION, NOTWITHSTANDING THE FACT THAT THE LOWEST FIRST-CLASS ACCOMMODATIONS WERE NOT AVAILABLE AND DELAY IN HIS DEPARTURE UNTIL SUCH ACCOMMODATIONS WERE AVAILABLE WOULD HAVE RESULTED IN ADDITIONAL COST OF $35.00 TO THE GOVERNMENT FOR TRAVEL ALLOWANCES FOR ONE WEEK AT $5.00 PER DIEM.

5. THE PROBLEM OF SECURING STEAMER TRANSPORTATION FOR THOSE WHO ARE TO BE RETURNED TO THE MAINLAND FOR DISCHARGE IN ACCORDANCE WITH TERMS OF THEIR CONTRACT AGREEMENTS WILL BECOME MORE ACUTE DURING THE NEXT FEW MONTHS, AS THE MIDWAY PROJECT IS NEARING COMPLETION. AS A SOLUTION TO THIS PROBLEM, IT IS REQUESTED THAT YOUR OFFICE CONTACT OFFICIALS OF THE MATSON NAVIGATION COMPANY AND THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT LINES WITH A VIEW TO OBTAINING SOME CONCESSION WHICH WILL PERMIT THEIR HONOLULU AGENT TO FURNISH OTHER THAN THE MINIMUM FIRST-CLASS ACCOMMODATIONS IF AVAILABLE ON THEIR STEAMERS WITHOUT CHARGE OF EXCESS COST, UPON PRESENTATION OF GOVERNMENT TRANSPORTATION REQUEST ISSUED BY THIS OFFICE. IF THIS IS NOT ALLOWED, IT IS RECOMMENDED THAT THE MATTER BE REFERRED TO THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL FOR RECONSIDERATION OF PREVIOUS DECISION TO PERMIT PAYMENT OF EXCESS COST OF MINIMUM FIRST CLASS RATE WHEN IT CAN BE DEFINITELY SHOWN THAT THERE IS A SAVING TO THE GOVERNMENT IN PAYMENT OF SUCH EXCESS COST WHEN SALARY OF THE EMPLOYEE AND PER DIEM COST ARE TAKEN INTO CONSIDERATION.

6. IN THIS CONNECTION, ATTENTION IS INVITED TO AMENDMENT TO STANDARD GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS, AFFECTING AUTHORITY FOR TRAVEL ON EXTRA- FARE TRAINS, PUBLISHED IN CIRCULAR LETTER O.C.E. ( FINANCE NO. 47) ( AUDITING NO. 6), DATED APRIL 1, 1940. IN THE LIGHT OF THESE REVISED TRAVEL REGULATIONS PERMITTING PAYMENT FOR TRAVEL ON EXTRA-FARE TRAINS, IT IS BELIEVED THAT A MORE LIBERAL INTERPRETATION OF THE ACT OF MARCH 3, 1933, RESTRICTING PAYMENTS TO LOWEST MINIMUM FIRST-CLASS RATE ON STEAMER ACCOMMODATIONS MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL AT THIS TIME.

SECTION 10 OF THE ACT OF MARCH 3, 1933, 47 STAT. 1516, PROVIDES:

WHENEVER BY OR UNDER AUTHORITY OF LAW ACTUAL EXPENSES FOR TRAVEL MAY BE ALLOWED TO OFFICERS OR EMPLOYEES OF THE UNITED STATES, SUCH ALLOWANCES IN THE CASE OF TRAVEL ORDERED AFTER THE DATE OF ENACTMENT OF THIS ACT, SHALL NOT EXCEED THE LOWEST FIRST-CLASS RATE BY THE TRANSPORTATION FACILITY USED IN SUCH TRAVEL.

IT HAS BEEN UNIFORMLY HELD BY THIS OFFICE THAT THE LIMITATION FIXED IN THE ACT OF MARCH 3, 1933, SUPRA, PERMITS OF NO EXCEPTIONS AND THAT IT IS APPLICABLE EVEN THOUGH THE LOWEST FIRST-CLASS ACCOMMODATIONS ARE NOT AVAILABLE AT THE TIME THE TRANSPORTATION IS APPLIED FOR. 13 COMP. GEN. 10; ID. 17; 14 ID. 460; 15 ID. 349.

IN VIEW OF THIS STATUTORY PROHIBITION WHICH, UNLIKE THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 901 OF THE MERCHANT MARINE ACT, 1936, 49 STAT. 2015, LEAVES NO DISCRETION IN THIS OFFICE, THERE IS NO AUTHORITY FOR THIS OFFICE TO APPROVE THE PAYMENT FROM APPROPRIATED FUNDS OF FARES IN EXCESS OF THE LOWEST FIRST-CLASS RATES FOR THE FACILITIES USED, NOTWITHSTANDING THAT THE DELAY AWAITING AVAILABLE TRANSPORTATION MAY RESULT IN THE PAYMENT OF PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE IN EXCESS OF THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE LOWEST FIRST-CLASS RATE AND THE NEXT HIGHER AVAILABLE TRANSPORTATION.