B-129387, NOV. 8, 1956

B-129387: Nov 8, 1956

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E. POTTER: REFERENCE IS MADE TO LETTER OF JUNE 20. WAS ROXBURY. THE TRANSPORTATION COST TO THE GOVERNMENT WOULD HAVE BEEN $972.30. SINCE THE NORMAL ROUND TRIP COST TO THE GOVERNMENT AT THE TIME THE TRAVEL WAS PERFORMED WOULD HAVE BEEN $1. USE OF THE LESS EXPENSIVE AIR TRAVEL COULD HAVE BEEN AUTHORIZED. IT IS UNDERSTOOD THAT MR. WAS USED DURING THE MONTHS OF APRIL. THE AMOUNT CREDITED TO THE PANAMA LINE AND CHARGED AGAINST THE EMPLOYEES' DIVISIONS IN CASES WHERE THE PANAMA LINE WAS ACTUALLY USED IN CONNECTION WITH HOME LEAVE TRAVEL. WAS $157.50 PER ONE-WAY ADULT FARE. WE WERE REQUIRED. "ALTHOUGH THE $50 OUT-OF-POCKET COST RATE WAS USED AT SUGGESTION OF THE HOUSE APPROPRIATION COMMITTED.

B-129387, NOV. 8, 1956

TO MAJOR GENERAL W. E. POTTER:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO LETTER OF JUNE 20, 1956, FROM THE COMPTROLLER, PANAMA CANAL COMPANY, COM-596, TO OUR OFFICE, RELATIVE TO THE CLAIM OF ARTHUR T. COTTON, BOX 10, BALBOA, CANAL ZONE, FOR ADDITIONAL REIMBURSEMENT FOR TRAVEL AND TRANSPORTATION EXPENSES INCURRED IN HIS TRAVEL TO THE UNITED STATES IN JUNE 1955 FOR THE PURPOSE OF TAKING HOME LEAVE.

MR. COTTON'S PLACE OF RESIDENCE IN THE UNITED STATES, AS ADMINISTRATIVELY DETERMINED, WAS ROXBURY, MASSACHUSETTS, AND UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF PUBLIC LAW 737, 68 STAT. 1008, HE BECAME ELIGIBLE TO TRAVEL WITH HIS IMMEDIATE FAMILY FROM CHRISTOBAL, CANAL ZONE, TO THAT CITY ON HOME LEAVE AND RETURN, AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE. IF MR. COTTON HAD SPENT HIS HOME LEAVE IN ROXBURY, THE TRANSPORTATION COST TO THE GOVERNMENT WOULD HAVE BEEN $972.30, COMPRISING 3 1/2 ROUND TRIP FARES (TOURIST) BY AIR FROM CHRISTOBAL TO NEW YORK, AND 3 1/2 ROUND TRIP FARES (COACH) BY AIR FROM NEW YORK TO BOSTON. SINCE THE NORMAL ROUND TRIP COST TO THE GOVERNMENT AT THE TIME THE TRAVEL WAS PERFORMED WOULD HAVE BEEN $1,102.50 BY THE PANAMA LINE TO NEW YORK, PLUS $112.06 RAIL TRAVEL TO BOSTON, TOTALING $1,214.56, USE OF THE LESS EXPENSIVE AIR TRAVEL COULD HAVE BEEN AUTHORIZED. SEE, IN THIS CONNECTION, OUR DECISION OF SEPTEMBER 11, 1956, B-128623, TO YOU.

MR. COTTON AND HIS FAMILY DID NOT, HOWEVER, PROCEED TO ROXBURY BUT INSTEAD TRAVELED TO SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA, AND RETURNED TO THE CANAL ZONE, AT GREATER EXPENSE THAN COULD BE ALLOWED BY THE GOVERNMENT.

IT IS UNDERSTOOD THAT MR. COTTON DEPARTED FROM CHRISTOBAL IN JUNE 1955. IN THAT REGARD THE COMPTROLLER'S LETTER READS AS FOLLOWS:

"THE ADMINISTRATIVELY DETERMINED OUT-OF-POCKET COST OF $50 PER PASSENGER, EXCLUDING CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF TWO, WAS USED DURING THE MONTHS OF APRIL, MAY AND JUNE, 1955, IN COMPUTING THE MOST ECONOMICAL ROUTING OF EMPLOYEES OF THE PANAMA CANAL COMPANY AND THE CANAL ZONE GOVERNMENT ON HOME LEAVE AND FOR PURPOSES OF COMPARATIVE COSTS. PRIOR TO THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE $50 RATE WE USED FOR COMPARATIVE COST PURPOSES THE ACTUAL PANAMA LINE MINIMUM ONE-WAY TARIFF RATE; I.E. THE AMOUNT CREDITED TO THE PANAMA LINE AND CHARGED AGAINST THE EMPLOYEES' DIVISIONS IN CASES WHERE THE PANAMA LINE WAS ACTUALLY USED IN CONNECTION WITH HOME LEAVE TRAVEL. THIS RATE, AT THE TIME OF MR. COTTON'S DEPARTURE FROM THE CANAL ZONE, WAS $157.50 PER ONE-WAY ADULT FARE. FOR TRAVEL AFTER JUNE 30, 1955, WE WERE REQUIRED, IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE ABOVE-QUOTED SECTION 205, TO USE THE ,ACTUAL COST" RATE COMPUTED BY THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE.

"ALTHOUGH THE $50 OUT-OF-POCKET COST RATE WAS USED AT SUGGESTION OF THE HOUSE APPROPRIATION COMMITTED, IT NOW APPEARS, IN VIEW OF THE ENACTMENT OF THE LEGISLATION (SECTION 205 OF PUBLIC LAW 121, 69 STAT. 236, EFFECTIVE JUNE 30, 1955) REQUIRING THE USE OF THE "ACTUAL COST" RATE AS COMPUTED BY THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE, THAT IT WAS NOT THE INTENT OF THE ENTIRE CONGRESS THAT THE $50 RATE BE USED. THEREFORE IT MAY BE THAT THE EMPLOYEES WHO DID NOT TRAVEL ON THE PANAMA LINE BUT WERE LIMITED TO THE $50 RATE, WERE UNJUSTLY PENALIZED. BUT FOR THE FACT THAT THE $50 RATE WAS BEING APPLIED, MR. COTTON'S TRAVEL ALLOWANCE WOULD HAVE BEEN BASED ON THE ROUND-TRIP COST BY AIR FROM THE CANAL ZONE TO ROXBURY, MASSACHUSETTS, IN LINE WITH THE GENERAL RULE THAT THE ALLOWANCE FOR TRAVEL SHALL BE BASED ON THE ROUND-TRIP COST VIA THE "GOING" MODE OF ANSPORTATION.'

THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE CONSISTENTLY HAS ADVOCATED THE PAYMENT BY ALL USERS OF SERVICES FURNISHED BY THE PANAMA CANAL COMPANY OF THE FULL COST OF SUCH SERVICES. TO DO OTHERWISE WOULD HAVE THE EFFECT OF TRANSFERRING FROM THE CANAL ZONE GOVERNMENT TO THE PANAMA LINE A PART OF THE COST OF THE TRAVEL OF EMPLOYEES OF THE CANAL ZONE GOVERNMENT UNDER PUBLIC LAW 737. IT IS BELIEVED THAT THIS VIOLATES THE INTENT OF PUBLIC LAW 841, 64 STAT. 1038, WHICH CONTEMPLATES THAT THE VARIOUS ACTIVITIES OF THE PANAMA CANAL COMPANY WOULD RECOVER THEIR COSTS FOR THE SERVICES RENDERED.

IN VIEW OF THE COMPTROLLER'S RECOMMENDATION AND OF OUR VIEW OF THE SITUATION, WE FIND NO REASON WHY IN DETERMINING THE CONSTRUCTIVE TRAVEL COST TO THE GOVERNMENT THE CLAIM MAY NOT BE ALLOWED IN THE NET AMOUNT ADMINISTRATIVELY RECOMMENDED ($476.64), IF OTHERWISE CORRECT.

LIKE ACTION MAY BE TAKEN IN REGARD TO OTHER SIMILAR CLAIMS PENDING BEFORE YOUR OFFICE.