B-162955, JAN. 17, 1968

B-162955: Jan 17, 1968

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EMPLOYEES WHO MADE A SURVEY OF THE HOUSING SITUATION AT ANOTHER STATION PRIOR TO ACCEPTING POSITIONS AT THE NEW STATION HAVE NOT MET THE REQUIREMENTS OF SECTIONS 1.3 AND 2.4 OF BOB CIRCULAR A-56 AS TO SERVICE OBLIGATION AFTER TRANSFER. OATEY) WAS ADVISED BY AN ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIAL AT CANYON FERRY THAT THE GOVERNMENT WOULD PAY THE TRAVEL EXPENSES OF A HOUSE-HUNTING TRIP IF THE EMPLOYEE ACCEPTED THE NEW JOB. NO ADVANCE TRAVEL AUTHORIZATIONS WERE ISSUED FOR THE HOUSE-HUNTING TRIPS IN QUESTION. OATEY AND JOHNSON LOCATED HOUSING AND SUBSEQUENTLY WERE TRANSFERRED TO COULEE DAM. WAS ISSUED AFTER THE HOUSE-HUNTING TRIP AND REFERRED TO PUB.L. 89-516 AS AUTHORITY FOR THE TRANSFER AND AUTHORIZED AN ADVANCE ROUND TRIP FOR THE EMPLOYEE AND HIS WIFE TO SEEK A RESIDENCE.

B-162955, JAN. 17, 1968

EMPLOYEES - TRANSFERS - PUBLIC LAW 89-516 - TRAVEL TO LOCATE RESIDENCE DECISION TO CERTIFYING OFFICER OF BUREAU OF RECLAMATION RE PROPRIETY OF REIMBURSING EMPLOYEES FOR HOUSEHUNTING TRIPS UPON CHANGE OF STATION FROM CANYON FERRY, MONTANA TO COULEE DAM, WASHINGTON. EMPLOYEES WHO MADE A SURVEY OF THE HOUSING SITUATION AT ANOTHER STATION PRIOR TO ACCEPTING POSITIONS AT THE NEW STATION HAVE NOT MET THE REQUIREMENTS OF SECTIONS 1.3 AND 2.4 OF BOB CIRCULAR A-56 AS TO SERVICE OBLIGATION AFTER TRANSFER. LACK OF KNOWLEDGE OF THE REQUIREMENTS MAY NOT BE RECOGNIZED AS PERMITTING AN EXCEPTION TO THE CONDITIONS OF THE REGULATION.

TO MISS SOPHIE G. CYZESKI:

WE REFER TO YOUR LETTER OF NOVEMBER 16, 1967, REFERENCE 3622, REQUESTING OUR DECISION AS TO WHETHER YOU MAY CERTIFY FOR PAYMENT TWO VOUCHERS SUBMITTED BY ARTHUR J. OATEY AND JOHN M. JOHNSON, EMPLOYEES OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BUREAU OF RECLAMATION, COLUMBIA BASIN PROJECT, COULEE DAM, WASHINGTON, IN CONNECTION WITH HOUSE HUNTING TRIPS UPON CHANGE OF OFFICIAL STATION.

PRIOR TO ACCEPTING EMPLOYMENT AT COULEE DAM, MR. OATEY AND MR. JOHNSON MADE TRIPS EARLY IN MARCH 1967 FROM THEIR DUTY STATION AT CANYON FERRY, MONTANA, TO LOCATE HOUSES AT COULEE DAM. IT APPEARS THAT MR. JOHNSON (AND PRESUMABLY MR. OATEY) WAS ADVISED BY AN ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIAL AT CANYON FERRY THAT THE GOVERNMENT WOULD PAY THE TRAVEL EXPENSES OF A HOUSE-HUNTING TRIP IF THE EMPLOYEE ACCEPTED THE NEW JOB. HOWEVER, NO ADVANCE TRAVEL AUTHORIZATIONS WERE ISSUED FOR THE HOUSE-HUNTING TRIPS IN QUESTION.

MESSRS. OATEY AND JOHNSON LOCATED HOUSING AND SUBSEQUENTLY WERE TRANSFERRED TO COULEE DAM. THE TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION IN MR. OATEY'S CASE DATED APRIL 25, 1967, WAS ISSUED AFTER THE HOUSE-HUNTING TRIP AND REFERRED TO PUB.L. 89-516 AS AUTHORITY FOR THE TRANSFER AND AUTHORIZED AN ADVANCE ROUND TRIP FOR THE EMPLOYEE AND HIS WIFE TO SEEK A RESIDENCE.

MR. JOHNSON'S ORIGINAL TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION DATED MARCH 17, 1967, REFERRED TO THE ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSES ACT OF 1946 AS AUTHORITY FOR THE TRAVEL BUT MADE NO MENTION OF PUB.L. 89-516 OR A HOUSE-HUNTING TRIP. AMENDED TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION DATED APRIL 17, 1967, STATED THAT ALLOWANCES WERE AUTHORIZED UNDER PUB.L. 89-516, AS IMPLEMENTED BY BUREAU OF THE BUDGET CIRCULAR NO. A-56, BUT LIKEWISE DID NOT SPECIFICALLY AUTHORIZE OR APPROVE A HOUSE-HUNTING TRIP. A FURTHER MEMORANDUM FROM THE PROJECT OFFICE AT EPHRATA, WASHINGTON, DATED DECEMBER 1, 1967, INDICATES THAT IT WAS THE INTENTION OF THOSE IN CHARGE AT THE TIME OF THE ISSUANCE OF THE ORIGINAL ORDERS TO ACCORD MR. JOHNSON ALL THE BENEFITS PROVIDED BY PUB.L. 89-516, INCLUDING AUTHORIZATION OF A HOUSE-HUNTING TRIP.

SECTION 2 OF PUB.L. 89-516, APPROVED JULY 21, 1966, 80 STAT. 323, AMENDED SECTION 23 OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSES ACT OF 1946 (60 STAT. 806) TO PROVIDE THAT UNDER REGULATIONS PRESCRIBED BY THE PRESIDENT PER DIEM AND TRANSPORTATION EXPENSES OF ONE ROUND TRIP BY AN EMPLOYEE AND HIS SPOUSE IN CONNECTION WITH LOCATING PERMANENT QUARTERS AT HIS NEW OFFICIAL DUTY STATION ARE REIMBURSABLE.

REGULATIONS ISSUED BY THE BUREAU OF THE BUDGET IN CIRCULAR NO. A-56, APPROVED OCTOBER 12, 1966, PROVIDE IN PART AS FOLLOWS:

"1.3 CONDITIONS AND LIMITATIONS REGARDING PAYMENT OF ALLOWANCES.

"C. AGREEMENT REQUIREMENT AND LIABILITY.

"/1) TRANSFERS WITHIN CONTINENTAL UNITED STATES AND APPOINTMENTS AND ASSIGNMENTS OF NEW APPOINTEES AND STUDENT TRAINEES TO CERTAIN POSITIONS WITHIN THE 50 STATES AND THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA. IN CONNECTION WITH THE TRANSFER OF EMPLOYEES BETWEEN OFFICIAL STATIONS WITHIN THE CONTINENTAL UNITED STATES, EXPENSES FOR TRAVEL, TRANSPORTATION, MOVING AND/OR STORAGE OF HOUSEHOLD GOODS AND PERSONAL EFFECTS, AND ALLOWANCES AS PROVIDED IN THESE REGULATIONS SHALL NOT BE ALLOWED UNLESS AND UNTIL THE EMPLOYEE SELECTED FOR SUCH TRANSFER SHALL AGREE IN WRITING TO REMAIN IN THE SERVICE OF THE GOVERNMENT FOR TWELVE MONTHS FOLLOWING THE EFFECTIVE DATE OF TRANSFER, UNLESS SEPARATED FOR REASONS BEYOND HIS CONTROL AND ACCEPTABLE TO THE DEPARTMENT CONCERNED. * * * A SIGNED AGREEMENT FOR TWELVE MONTHS SHALL BE REQUIRED IN CONNECTION WITH EACH PERMANENT CHANGE OF STATION.

"2.4 FOR ROUND TRIP BETWEEN OLD AND NEW OFFICIAL STATIONS TO SEEK PERMANENT RESIDENCE QUARTERS.

"A. APPLICABILITY OF AND GENERAL POLICY FOR AUTHORIZING TRAVEL TO SEEK RESIDENCE QUARTERS. PAYMENT OF TRAVEL AND TRANSPORTATION EXPENSES OF THE EMPLOYEE AND SPOUSE TRAVELING TOGETHER, OR EITHER ONE OF THEM, FOR ONE ROUND TRIP BETWEEN THE LOCALITIES OF THE OLD AND NEW DUTY STATIONS FOR THE PURPOSE OF SEEKING RESIDENCE QUARTERS MAY BE AUTHORIZED WHEN CIRCUMSTANCES WARRANT. * * * "IN ADDITION TO THESE GENERAL GUIDELINES, WHICH SHOULD BE OBSERVED IN ORDER TO ELIMINATE WASTEFUL OR UNNECESSARY TRIPS, REIMBURSEMENT FOR TRAVEL AND TRANSPORTATION EXPENSES FOR TRIPS TO SEEK PERMANENT QUARTERS SHALL NOT BE AUTHORIZED UNDER THE FOLLOWING CIRCUMSTANCES:

"C. PROCEDURAL REQUIREMENTS.

"/1) A TRIP FOR FINDING RESIDENCE QUARTERS WILL NOT BE PERMITTED AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE UNTIL AFTER AN EMPLOYEE HAS AGREED TO THE TRANSFER AND THE DATE OF THE TRANSFER HAS BEEN ESTABLISHED, AND SHALL NOT BE AUTHORIZED UNDER CIRCUMSTANCES WHERE A PURPOSE OF THE TRIP IS TO PERMIT THE EMPLOYEE TO DECIDE WHETHER HE WILL ACCEPT THE TRANSFER. * * *

"/3) A PERMANENT CHANGE OF STATION TRAVEL ORDER SHOULD BE ISSUED WHICH INCLUDES AUTHORIZATION FOR THE ADVANCE ROUND TRIP, MODE OF TRANSPORTATION AND PERIOD OF TIME ALLOWED FOR THE TRIP. THE TRIP SHALL NOT BE MADE AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE UNLESS THE TRAVEL ORDER INCLUDES THE DUTY REPORTING DATE AT THE NEW OFFICIAL STATION AND INDICATES THAT THE EMPLOYEE HAS SIGNED THE REQUIRED AGREEMENT. * * *"

IT APPEARS THAT AT THE TIME THESE EMPLOYEES UNDERTOOK THEIR HOUSE HUNTING TRIPS DETAILED AGENCY DIRECTIVES SPELLING OUT THE NECESSITY FOR A TRAVEL ORDER AUTHORIZING AN ADVANCE HOUSE-HUNTING TRIP, THE DURATION OF THE TRIP AND OTHER INFORMATION HAD NOT BEEN PROMULGATED BY THE REGIONAL OFFICE. FACT, MR. JOHNSON ASSERTS THAT HE WAS THE FIRST EMPLOYEE TO LEAVE CANYON FERRY FOLLOWING ISSUANCE OF THE NEW BUREAU OF THE BUDGET REGULATIONS CONTAINED IN CIRCULAR NO. A-56.

UNDER THE ABOVE REGULATIONS A HOUSE-HUNTING TRIP MAY NOT BE AUTHORIZED TO PERMIT AN EMPLOYEE TO DECIDE WHETHER HE WILL ACCEPT THE TRANSFER AND WILL NOT BE PERMITTED AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE UNTIL HE AGREES TO THE TRANSFER, THE DATE HAS BEEN SET, AND HE AGREES TO SERVE FOR 12 MONTHS. THE PURPOSE OF THESE PROCEDURAL REQUIREMENTS IS TO ENSURE THAT GOVERNMENT EXPENDITURES WILL BE CONFINED TO CASES WHERE THE EMPLOYEES ARE ALREADY OBLIGATED TO SERVE THE NECESSARY PERIOD AFTER TRANSFER OF HEADQUARTERS AND TO PRECLUDE EMPLOYEES FROM SURVEYING THE NEW POSITION, INCURRING TRAVEL AND TRANSPORTATION EXPENSES, AND THEN DECLINING TO TRANSFER. HERE, IT IS CLEAR THAT SUCH PROCEDURES WERE NOT FOLLOWED. MOREOVER, THERE IS AN INDICATION THAT SUCH TRIPS WERE MADE FOR THE PURPOSE OF SURVEYING THE HOUSING SITUATION AT COULEE DAM, WASHINGTON, PRIOR TO THE EMPLOYEES MAKING UP THEIR MINDS AS TO WHETHER THEY WOULD ACCEPT THE OFFERED POSITIONS AT THAT LOCATION.

SINCE THE REGULATIONS WERE NOT COMPLIED WITH AND AS THE LACK OF KNOWLEDGE OF THE REQUIREMENTS OF SUCH REGULATIONS MAY NOT BE RECOGNIZED AS PERMITTING AN EXCEPTION THERETO, THE VOUCHERS WHICH ARE RETURNED HEREWITH MAY NOT BE CERTIFIED FOR PAYMENT.