B-129225, OCT. 3, 1956

B-129225: Oct 3, 1956

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SINCE THE EMPLOYEE COULD HAVE DEPARTED 1 HOUR LATER AND THEREBY SAVED THE GOVERNMENT 1/4-DAY PER DIEM AND HAD SUBMITTED NO EXPLANATION AS TO THE REASON FOR DEPARTURE PRIOR TO NOON. THE ALLOWANCE ON THE ORIGINAL VOUCHER WAS LIMITED TO 1/2-DAY PER DIEM FOR THAT DATE. WAS TO ENABLE HIM TO ARRIVE IN TRINIDAD AT 4:30 P.M. WHICH WAS HIS REGULAR QUITTING TIME. THE APPROVAL OF THE DISTRICT SUPERVISOR APPARENTLY WAS PREDICATED UPON THE SAME BASIS. PARAGRAPH 1 OF THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS PROVIDES THAT EMPLOYEES TRAVELING ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS ARE EXPECTED TO EXERCISE THE SAME CARE IN INCURRING EXPENSES THAT A PRUDENT PERSON WOULD EXERCISE IF TRAVELING ON PERSONAL BUSINESS. THAT AN EMPLOYEE MAY BE REQUIRED TO TRAVEL ON NONWORKDAYS AND MAY NOT PROPERLY REFUSE TO UNDERTAKE SUCH TRAVEL SOLELY BECAUSE OVERTIME COMPENSATION IS NOT PAID FOR TRAVEL TIME.

B-129225, OCT. 3, 1956

TO MISS NAOMI E. STOKES, AUTHORIZED CERTIFYING OFFICER, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE NTERIOR:

YOUR LETTER OF SEPTEMBER 4, 1956, REQUESTS OUR DECISION WHETHER YOU MAY PROPERLY CERTIFY FOR PAYMENT THE RECLAIM VOUCHER ENCLOSED THEREWITH IN FAVOR OF DAN R. RATKOVICH FOR $2.25, REPRESENTING 1/4-DAY PER DIEM SUSPENDED ON HIS ORIGINAL VOUCHER FOR THE DAY OF JUNE 15, 1956.

PURSUANT TO TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION DATED JULY 1, 1955, AUTHORIZING NECESSARY TRAVEL AS COAL MINE INSPECTOR THROUGHOUT A THREE-STATE LOCALITY WITH DENVER, COLORADO, AS THE OFFICIAL STATION, THE EMPLOYEE DEPARTED FROM DENVER AT 11 A.M. ON JUNE 15, 1956, IN A GOVERNMENT VEHICLE AND ARRIVED IN TRINIDAD, COLORADO, AT 4:45 P.M. THE SAME DAY. SINCE THE EMPLOYEE COULD HAVE DEPARTED 1 HOUR LATER AND THEREBY SAVED THE GOVERNMENT 1/4-DAY PER DIEM AND HAD SUBMITTED NO EXPLANATION AS TO THE REASON FOR DEPARTURE PRIOR TO NOON, THE ALLOWANCE ON THE ORIGINAL VOUCHER WAS LIMITED TO 1/2-DAY PER DIEM FOR THAT DATE.

THE EMPLOYEE SAYS THAT THE REASON FOR LEAVING AT 11 A.M. INSTEAD OF 12:01 P.M. WAS TO ENABLE HIM TO ARRIVE IN TRINIDAD AT 4:30 P.M., WHICH WAS HIS REGULAR QUITTING TIME. THE APPROVAL OF THE DISTRICT SUPERVISOR APPARENTLY WAS PREDICATED UPON THE SAME BASIS.

PARAGRAPH 1 OF THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS PROVIDES THAT EMPLOYEES TRAVELING ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS ARE EXPECTED TO EXERCISE THE SAME CARE IN INCURRING EXPENSES THAT A PRUDENT PERSON WOULD EXERCISE IF TRAVELING ON PERSONAL BUSINESS.

WE HELD IN 31 COMP. GEN. 278, THAT AN EMPLOYEE MAY BE REQUIRED TO TRAVEL ON NONWORKDAYS AND MAY NOT PROPERLY REFUSE TO UNDERTAKE SUCH TRAVEL SOLELY BECAUSE OVERTIME COMPENSATION IS NOT PAID FOR TRAVEL TIME. THE FOLLOWING LANGUAGE IS ALSO SET FORTH IN THAT DECISION:

"* * * ADMINISTRATIVE POLICY IN THAT REGARD (TRAVEL OUTSIDE OF WORKING HOURS) SHOULD BE SO DESIGNED THAT IT WILL ADEQUATELY PROTECT THE INTERESTS OF THE GOVERNMENT AND AT THE SAME TIME NOT RESULT IN UNDUE HARDSHIP TO EMPLOYEES.'

IN 2 COMP. GEN. 708 WE HELD AS FOLLOWS (QUOTING FROM THE SYLLABUS):

"THE AVOIDING OF TRAVEL ON SUNDAY IS NOT A SUFFICIENT EXCUSE TO ENTITLE AN EMPLOYEE OF THE TREASURY DEPARTMENT TO REIMBURSEMENT FOR THE EXTRA DAY'S SUBSISTENCE EXPENSE INCURRED WHEN LEAVING HIS PERMANENT DUTY STATION ONE DAY EARLIER THAN ORDINARILY REQUIRED TO REACH HIS TEMPORARY DUTY STATION AT THE APPOINTED TIME.'

IN CONSTRUING WHAT CONSTITUTES THE EXERCISE OF REASONABLE CARE OF A PRUDENT PERSON UNDER THE TRAVEL REGULATIONS, WE HELD IN 33 COMP. GEN. 221 THAT AN EMPLOYEE WHO DEPARTED EARLY IN ORDER TO OBTAIN A HOTEL RESERVATION AT HIS DESTINATION WAS USING DUE CARE. OUR DECISION B 123715, AUGUST 12, 1955, HELD THAT A TRAVELER WAS EXERCISING THE NECESSARY CARE WHEN HE INTERRUPTED HIS TRAVEL AT THE END OF 17 HOURS IN ORDER TO SECURE NEEDED SLEEP. MOREOVER, IN DECISION B-121314 OF JANUARY 6, 1955, WE CONCLUDED THAT IT WOULD BE UNREASONABLE TO SCHEDULE AN EMPLOYEE'S DEPARTURE TIME SO THAT HE WOULD ARRIVE AT HIS DESTINATION AT 9:45 P.M. OR 11:55 P.M. TO DO SO WOULD HAVE PREVENTED HIM FROM SECURING THE NECESSARY HOTEL ACCOMMODATIONS AND RETIRING AT A REASONABLE HOUR IN ORDER TO GET THE NECESSARY REST PRIOR TO REPORTING FOR DUTY THE FOLLOWING MORNING. ALSO SEE 16 COMP. GEN. 620, 624.

WHETHER A TRAVELER HAS USED DUE CARE IN THE INCURRENCE OF AN EXPENSE AND WHETHER THE EXPENSE WAS ESSENTIAL TO THE TRANSACTING OF THE OFFICIAL BUSINESS ARE ESSENTIALLY FACTUAL MATTERS FOR DETERMINATION IN THE LIGHT OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE PARTICULAR CASE.

OUR OPINION IS THAT THE EXPLANATION GIVEN BY THE TRAVELER IN THIS CASE DOES NOT JUSTIFY HIS EARLY DEPARTURE AND THAT THE ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION IN DEDUCTING THE EXCESS COST WAS PROPER. ACCORDINGLY, THE RECLAIM VOUCHER RETURNED HEREWITH MAY NOT BE PROCESSED FOR PAYMENT.