B-162162, AUG. 28, 1967

B-162162: Aug 28, 1967

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RETURNED TO OFFICIAL STATION ON WORKDAYS AS PASSENGER IN PRIVATELY OWNED VEHICLE FOR WHICH OPERATORS WERE ENTITLED TO ACTUAL COSTS FOR MOTOR FUEL. THAT PAYMENT OF MILEAGE TO ONE EMPLOYEE TRAVELING WITH OTHERS SATISFIES THE GOVERNMENT OBLIGATION IS APPLICABLE WHEN THE ALLOWANCE OF ACTUAL EXPENSES IS INVOLVED. THE ROUND TRIPS OVER THE NONWORKDAYS AVERAGED IN EXCESS OF 400 MILES IN DISTANCE AND CONTRIBUTIONS WERE MADE BY YOU TO THE VEHICLE OPERATORS APPARENTLY TO HELP DEFRAY THE COSTS THEREOF. THE VEHICLE OPERATORS ARE UNDERSTOOD TO HAVE DETERMINED THE TRANSPORTATION COSTS OF THE TRIPS ON THE BASIS OF A MILEAGE RATE OF 10 CENTS A MILE WHICH REFLECTED A COST PER ROUND TRIP IN EXCESS OF $40 EACH.

B-162162, AUG. 28, 1967

TRAVEL EXPENSES - RETURN TO HEADQUARTERS OVER WEEKENDS, ETC. DECISION TO ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS EMPLOYEE WHO CLAIMS REIMBURSEMENT OF EXPENSES FOR VOLUNTARY ROUND TRIP RETURN TRAVEL TO OFFICIAL STATION ON WORKDAYS. EMPLOYEE WHO, WHILE ON TEMPORARY DUTY, RETURNED TO OFFICIAL STATION ON WORKDAYS AS PASSENGER IN PRIVATELY OWNED VEHICLE FOR WHICH OPERATORS WERE ENTITLED TO ACTUAL COSTS FOR MOTOR FUEL, OIL, TOLLS AND NOT MILEAGE MAY NOT BE PAID ANY AMOUNT SINCE THE RATIONALE OF SEC. 3.5B (3), S.G.T.R-S, THAT PAYMENT OF MILEAGE TO ONE EMPLOYEE TRAVELING WITH OTHERS SATISFIES THE GOVERNMENT OBLIGATION IS APPLICABLE WHEN THE ALLOWANCE OF ACTUAL EXPENSES IS INVOLVED.

TO MR. JOHN E. HITE:

YOUR LETTER OF JULY 19, 1967, WITH ENCLOSURES, REQUESTS OUR REVIEW OF GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE SETTLEMENT OF JULY 13, 1967, WHICH DISALLOWED YOUR CLAIM FOR REIMBURSEMENT OF EXPENSES INCURRED BY YOU INCIDENT TO YOUR VOLUNTARY TRAVEL AS A CIVILIAN EMPLOYEE OF THE U.S. CORPS OF ENGINEERS FROM YOUR TEMPORARY DUTY STATION TO YOUR OFFICIAL STATION ON NONWORKDAYS AS A PASSENGER IN PRIVATELY OWNED VEHICLES OF COEMPLOYEES.

IT APPEARS FROM THE RECORD THAT DURING THE PERIOD JULY THROUGH OCTOBER 1965 YOU MADE SEVERAL TRIPS TO YOUR OFFICIAL STATION, GREENVILLE, MISSISSIPPI, AS A PASSENGER IN PRIVATELY OWNED VEHICLES OPERATED BY FELLOW EMPLOYEES IN THE CORPS OF ENGINEERS. THE ROUND TRIPS OVER THE NONWORKDAYS AVERAGED IN EXCESS OF 400 MILES IN DISTANCE AND CONTRIBUTIONS WERE MADE BY YOU TO THE VEHICLE OPERATORS APPARENTLY TO HELP DEFRAY THE COSTS THEREOF.

THE VEHICLE OPERATORS ARE UNDERSTOOD TO HAVE DETERMINED THE TRANSPORTATION COSTS OF THE TRIPS ON THE BASIS OF A MILEAGE RATE OF 10 CENTS A MILE WHICH REFLECTED A COST PER ROUND TRIP IN EXCESS OF $40 EACH. SINCE THESE AMOUNTS WERE IN EXCESS OF THE PER DIEM TO WHICH THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN ENTITLED HAD THEY REMAINED AT THEIR TEMPORARY DUTY STATIONS THE VEHICLE OPERATORS WERE REIMBURSED IN AN AMOUNT NOT TO EXCEED THE LIMITATION ON PER DIEM AS AUTHORIZED BY SECTION 6.4 OF THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS.

THE BASIS FOR VEHICLE OPERATORS ESTIMATING TRANSPORTATION COSTS ON A MILEAGE BASIS IS NOT UNDERSTOOD. WE HAVE EXPRESSED THE VIEW THAT WHILE SECTION 6.4 OF THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS IS DEFINITE AND SPECIFIC AS TO THE CEILING OF THE TRAVEL COSTS INCURRED IN THE VOLUNTARY RETURN OF A TRAVELER TO HIS OFFICIAL STATION ON NONWORKDAYS, THEY ARE SIGNIFICANTLY SILENT AS TO WHAT STANDARD SHALL BE USED TO DETERMINE THE ROUND TRIP TRAVEL COSTS. IN THE ABSENCE OF SUCH A STANDARD WE HAVE CONCLUDED THAT UNDER SECTION 6.4 MILEAGE RATES SPECIFIED IN THE TRAVEL ORDERS FOR OFFICIALLY REQUIRED TRAVEL CONSTITUTE REASONABLE STANDARDS TO MEASURE EMPLOYEES' TRAVEL COSTS FOR VOLUNTARY RETURNS TO THEIR HEADQUARTERS. IN THE INSTANT CASE THE TRAVEL ORDERS APPEAR TO CONTEMPLATE THE USE OF GOVERNMENT OWNED AUTOMOBILES AND NO MILEAGE RATES UPON WHICH TO MEASURE TRAVEL COSTS FOR VOLUNTARY RETURNS APPEAR TO HAVE BEEN AUTHORIZED OR APPROVED. CF. SECTION 3.5 OF THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS, AS AMENDED, BUREAU OF THE BUDGET CIRCULAR NO. A-7, REVISED FEBRUARY 7, 1967. THUS IT WOULD SEEM THAT THE MAXIMUM EXPENSE THAT COULD BE ATTRIBUTED TO THE VEHICLE OPERATORS' COSTS OF TRANSPORTATION WOULD BE THE ACTUAL COSTS INCURRED FOR MOTOR FUEL, OIL, TOLLS, ETC.

HOWEVER, REGARDLESS OF ANY QUESTION CONCERNING THE COMPUTATION OF ALLOWANCES TO THE VEHICLE OPERATORS, THE RATIONALE OF SECTION 3.5B (3) OF THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS WHICH PROVIDES THAT MILEAGE WILL BE PAYABLE TO ONLY ONE OF TWO OR MORE EMPLOYEES TRAVELING TOGETHER IS THAT THE ALLOWANCE OF MILEAGE NOT TO EXCEED THE LIMITATION IN SECTION 6.4, ABOVE, TO ONE EMPLOYEE COMPLETELY SATISFIES THE GOVERNMENT'S OBLIGATION TO PAY FOR THE TRANSPORTATION INVOLVED. THE RATIONALE APPLIES WITH EQUAL FORCE WHEN THE ALLOWANCE OF ACTUAL EXPENSES OF TRANSPORTATION BY AUTOMOBILE IS ALL THAT IS AUTHORIZED BY LAW. SEE 32 COMP. GEN. 550.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING AND IN THE ABSENCE OF ANY REGULATIONS SETTING FORTH A DIFFERENT RULE APPLICABLE TO THE VOLUNTARY RETURN OF A TRAVELER TO HIS HOME OR DUTY STATION ON NONWORKDAYS THE DISALLOWANCE OF YOUR CLAIM MUST BE SUSTAINED.