B-123699, JUN. 16, 1955

B-123699: Jun 16, 1955

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FEDERAL HOUSING ADMINISTRATION: REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF APRIL 19. HODGES' AUTOMOBILE WAS DEFECTIVE DURING THE MONTH OF FEBRUARY 1955. APPROVAL OF THE TRAVEL VOUCHER WAS REFUSED BECAUSE OF THE BELIEF THAT THE ESTIMATED MILEAGE IS EXCESSIVE. IT IS NOTED THAT THE TRAVEL WAS PROPERLY AUTHORIZED AND THAT REIMBURSEMENT UPON A MILEAGE BASIS AT THE RATE OF SEVEN CENTS PER MILE WAS PRESCRIBED. WHICH MAY HAVE BEEN PREPARED ON AN ESTIMATED BASIS. IT IS REPORTED THAT AS A RESULT OF ORAL CONVERSATIONS WITH MR. IT APPEARS THAT HIS SPEEDOMETER MAY HAVE BEEN INOPERATIVE FOR SOME TIME AND THAT APPARENTLY HE HAS BEEN SUBMITTING AND RECEIVING PAYMENT FOR TRAVEL EXPENSE FOR AN UNDISCLOSED PERIOD IN WHICH HE HAD CLAIMED MILEAGE ON AN ESTIMATED BASIS.

B-123699, JUN. 16, 1955

TO MR. LESTER H. THOMPSON, AUTHORIZED CERTIFYING OFFICER, FEDERAL HOUSING ADMINISTRATION:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF APRIL 19, 1955, REQUESTING AN ADVANCE DECISION WHETHER YOU MAY CERTIFY FOR PAYMENT THE VOUCHERS THEREWITH TRANSMITTED IN FAVOR OF JIMMIE C. HODGES, IN THE AMOUNTS OF $79.31 AND $756.36. THE AMOUNTS REPRESENT REIMBURSEMENT EXPENSES FOR TRAVEL BY PRIVATELY OWNED AUTOMOBILE FOR THE PERIOD FEBRUARY 1 TO 28, 1955, AND PAYMENT OF ACCRUED ANNUAL LEAVE, RESPECTIVELY.

YOUR DOUBT IN THE MATTER ARISES FROM THE FACT THAT THE SPEEDOMETER ON MR. HODGES' AUTOMOBILE WAS DEFECTIVE DURING THE MONTH OF FEBRUARY 1955, RESULTING IN THE CLAIM FOR MILEAGE BEING PREPARED ON AN ESTIMATED BASIS, WHICH HAS NOT BEEN APPROVED BY THE PROPER ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIAL. APPARENTLY, APPROVAL OF THE TRAVEL VOUCHER WAS REFUSED BECAUSE OF THE BELIEF THAT THE ESTIMATED MILEAGE IS EXCESSIVE. HOWEVER, IT IS NOTED THAT THE TRAVEL WAS PROPERLY AUTHORIZED AND THAT REIMBURSEMENT UPON A MILEAGE BASIS AT THE RATE OF SEVEN CENTS PER MILE WAS PRESCRIBED. ALSO, THERE APPEARS TO BE SOME DOUBT CONCERNING THE PROPRIETY OF MILEAGE PAYMENTS ON PRIOR TRAVEL VOUCHERS, WHICH MAY HAVE BEEN PREPARED ON AN ESTIMATED BASIS. FOR THAT REASON THE AMOUNT DUE THE EMPLOYEE FOR ANNUAL LEAVE UPON HIS RESIGNATION FROM THE SERVICE ON MARCH 11, 1955, HAS BEEN WITHHELD.

IT IS REPORTED THAT AS A RESULT OF ORAL CONVERSATIONS WITH MR. HODGES, IT APPEARS THAT HIS SPEEDOMETER MAY HAVE BEEN INOPERATIVE FOR SOME TIME AND THAT APPARENTLY HE HAS BEEN SUBMITTING AND RECEIVING PAYMENT FOR TRAVEL EXPENSE FOR AN UNDISCLOSED PERIOD IN WHICH HE HAD CLAIMED MILEAGE ON AN ESTIMATED BASIS. IN VIEW THEREOF, A REEXAMINATION WAS MADE OF PRIOR VOUCHERS IN AN ATTEMPT TO DEFINITELY ASCERTAIN WHETHER THEY WERE BASED ON ESTIMATED MILAGE. THIS REEXAMINATION REVEALED THAT THE SPEEDOMETER READINGS SHOWN IN THE VOUCHERS PROGRESS PROPERLY FROM DAY TO DAY AND MONTH TO MONTH AND THAT THE POINT-TO-POINT MILEAGE AGREES WITH THE RAND MCNALLY HIGHWAY MILEAGE GUIDE IN EVERY INSTANCE. HOWEVER, THERE WAS NO WAY OF ACCURATELY VERIFYING THE MILEAGE CLAIMED FOR TRAVEL PERFORMED IN AND AROUND THE VARIOUS CITIES VISITED.

THERE HAS BEEN RECEIVED IN OUR OFFICE A WESTERN UNION TELEFAX, DATED APRIL 27, 1955, FROM MR. HODGES WHEREIN IT WAS STATED THAT THE ODOMETER ON HIS AUTOMOBILE WAS INOPERATIVE TWICE. THE FIRST PERIOD DURING WHICH THE ODOMETER WAS INOPERATIVE DID NOT INVOLVE GOVERNMENT TRAVEL AND THE SECOND PERIOD BEGAN IN THE EARLY PART OF FEBRUARY. IMMEDIATE REPAIRS WERE NOT MADE TO THE ODOMETER DUE TO CONSTANT USE OF THE AUTOMOBILE. IT IS ALSO STATED THAT THERE SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN SOME CONFUSION IN THE MATTER BECAUSE OF HIS PRIOR STATEMENT THAT THE SPEED INDICATOR NEEDLE HAD BEEN INOPERATIVE FOR SOME TIME BUT THAT ACTUALLY IT DID NOT AFFECT THE ODOMETER WHICH REMAINED OPERATIVE, EXCEPT FOR THE PERIOD IN FEBRUARY, TO INDICATE THE MILEAGE TRAVELED. MR. HODGES FURTHER ASSERTS THAT ONLY THE FEBRUARY VOUCHER MILEAGE IS ESTIMATED AND THIS WAS BASED ON PRIOR TRAVEL OVER THE SAME AREA. IN VIEW OF THAT EXPLANATION NO FURTHER ACTION APPEARS REQUIRED WITH RESPECT TO THE VOUCHERS COVERING REIMBURSEMENT OF TRAVELING EXPENSES INCURRED PRIOR TO FEBRUARY 1, 1955.

REFERRING TO THE TRAVEL VOUCHER FOR FEBRUARY 1955, IT HAS BEEN HELD BY OUR OFFICE THAT THE ACTUAL METER READINGS COVERING TRAVEL PERFORMED IN A PRIVATELY OWNED AUTOMOBILE ARE MERELY PRIMA FACIE EVIDENCE OF SUCH MILEAGE SUBJECT TO VERIFICATION BY STANDARD MILEAGE TABLES AS TO THE REASONABLENESS THEREOF, AND THAT WHERE A SPEEDOMETER IS INOPERATIVE THE DISTANCES BETWEEN SPECIFIED POINTS OF TRAVEL, AS SHOWN BY AN OFFICIAL HIGHWAY MAP, ARE SUFFICIENT TO PERMIT MILEAGE PAYMENTS TO EMPLOYEES. COMP. GEN. 168; 26 ID. 463; B-66001, MAY 16, 1947. ALSO, IT HAS BEEN RECOGNIZED IN SOME CASES THAT THE MILEAGE TRAVELED IN AN AUTOMOBILE WITH A BROKEN SPEEDOMETER IN AND AROUND VARIOUS LOCATIONS, WHICH IS NOT POSSIBLE OF ASCERTAINMENT BY CONSULTING A HIGHWAY MAP, MAY BE ESTABLISHED BY THE BEST EVIDENCE AVAILABLE. 26 COMP. GEN. 770; 30 ID. 151.

IN THE INSTANT CASE THE DISTANCES SHOWN ON THE VOUCHER BETWEEN THE SPECIFIED POINTS OF TRAVEL IN FEBRUARY 1955, ARE IN AGREEMENT WITH THOSE SHOWN ON THE APPLICABLE HIGHWAY MAP. AS TO THE VICINITY TRAVEL THE EMPLOYEE STATES THAT THE ESTIMATES OF THE DISTANCES TRAVELED WERE PREDICATED ON PRIOR TRAVEL IN THE SAME AREA OVER A PERIOD OF EIGHT YEARS. WHILE MR. HODGES' SUPERIORS MAY FEEL THAT SUCH ESTIMATES ARE EXCESSIVE IT IS NOTED THAT THEY ARE IN SUBSTANTIAL AGREEMENT WITH THE DISTANCES SHOWN FOR TRAVEL IN THE SAME VICINITIES ON PRIOR VOUCHERS WHICH WERE APPROVED BY THE PROPER ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIALS.

ACCORDINGLY, THE VOUCHERS, TOGETHER WITH RELATED PAPERS, ARE RETURNED HEREWITH AND MAY BE CERTIFIED FOR PAYMENT, IF OTHERWISE CORRECT.