B-125843, DEC. 16, 1955

B-125843: Dec 16, 1955

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YOUR ATTENTION IS INVITED TO OUR DECISIONS. CONSISTENTLY HAVE APPLIED THE RULE THAT. WHERE AN ADMINISTRATIVE PRACTICE OR POLICY IN EFFECT AT THE TIME WAS NOT MANDATORY UNDER THE LAW OR BASIC REGULATIONS. WAS NOT AMBIGUOUS OR INCOMPLETE.

B-125843, DEC. 16, 1955

TO MR. B. L. DOUGLAS, AUTHORIZED CERTIFYING OFFICER, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE:

YOUR LETTER OF OCTOBER 18, 1955, REQUESTS OUR DECISION AS TO THE PROPRIETY OF THE PROPOSED PAYMENT OF SUPPLEMENTAL MILEAGE FOR USE OF A PRIVATELY OWNED AUTOMOBILE TO MR. LEMUEL A. GARRISON IN THE AMOUNT OF $125.48 COVERING THE PERIOD MAY 27 TO JUNE 19, 1955, AND REPRESENTING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE MILEAGE RATE OF 5 CENTS SPECIFIED IN HIS TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION NO. 469 (MAY 17, 1955) AND THE MILEAGE RATE OF 7 CENTS ADMINISTRATIVELY "APPROVED" AUGUST 30, 1955.

YOU SAY SUCH APPROVAL OF AUGUST 30, PURPORTS TO AMEND THE AUTHORIZATION OF MAY 17 RETROACTIVELY TO CORRECT AN "INEQUITY SUFFERED BY THE TRAVELER IN THIS CASE.' ALSO YOU SAY THAT THE TRAVEL REQUEST OF MAY 17, 1955, THROUGH AN INADVERTENCE AUTHORIZED 5 CENTS PER MILE ALTHOUGH THE SERVICE USUALLY, IN SIMILAR CIRCUMSTANCES, HAS SPECIFIED THE 7-CENT RATE WHERE THE TRAVEL WOULD INVOLVE NUMEROUS OFFICIAL STOPS AT ISOLATED AREAS NOT ADEQUATELY SERVED BY COMMON CARRIERS AND WHEN AUTOMOBILE TRAVEL WITHIN PARK AREAS INVOLVED THE USE OF UNSURFACED AND MOUNTAIN ROADS.

YOUR ATTENTION IS INVITED TO OUR DECISIONS, 23 COMP. GEN. 713; 24 ID. 439; 32 ID. 315; 33 ID. 174; AND B-125295, NOVEMBER 2, 1955. THOSE DECISIONS, AS WELL AS OTHERS CITED THEREIN, CONSISTENTLY HAVE APPLIED THE RULE THAT, IN THE ABSENCE OF CLEAR AUTHORITY THEREFOR, ALTHOUGH ADMINISTRATIVE ORDERS, REGULATIONS, OR DISCRETIONARY POLICIES MAY BE AMENDED FROM TIME TO TIME CONSISTENT WITH APPLICABLE LAW, THEY MAY NOT BE AMENDED RETROACTIVELY TO INCREASE OR DECREASE RIGHTS OR OBLIGATIONS ALREADY VESTED OR FIXED EXCEPT TO CORRECT OBVIOUS ERRORS. AS STATED AT 24 COMP. GEN. 439, 442, EXCEPTIONAL CASES DO NOT INCLUDE CIRCUMSTANCES, SUCH AS HERE, WHERE AN ADMINISTRATIVE PRACTICE OR POLICY IN EFFECT AT THE TIME WAS NOT MANDATORY UNDER THE LAW OR BASIC REGULATIONS. AN ADMINISTRATIVE OVERSIGHT OF SUCH A DISCRETIONARY POLICY OR PRACTICE IN DRAFTING A TRAVEL ORDER WOULD NOT SERVE AS A LEGAL BASIS FOR RETROACTIVE MODIFICATIONS TO CHANGE FIXED RIGHTS AND TO CAST AN ADDITIONAL LIABILITY UPON THE UNITED STATES.

THEREFORE, AS THE RATE SPECIFIED IN TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION NO. 469 DATED MAY 17, 1955, WAS NOT AMBIGUOUS OR INCOMPLETE, AND UPON THE PRESENT RECORD DOES NOT APPEAR TO CONTAIN AN OBVIOUS ERROR, THE VOUCHER RETURNED HEREWITH MAY NOT BE CERTIFIED FOR PAYMENT.