B-168797, MAR. 6, 1970

B-168797: Mar 6, 1970

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EMPLOYEE MAY NOT BE REIMBURSED FOR HOUSE-HUNTING TRANSPORTATION AND TRAVEL EXPENSES BECAUSE PROPER OFFICIALS HAD NOT AUTHORIZED TRIP PRIOR TO TIME IT WAS TAKEN. ADMINISTRATIVE ERRORS FOR CORRECTION TO INCREASE OR DECREASE ALLOWABLE BENEFITS ARE THOSE RELATING TO FAILURE TO FOLLOW SPECIFIC INTENT OF AUTHORIZING OFFICIAL. DID NOT HAVE AUTHORITY TO GRANT SUCH APPROVAL. WHICH DENIED REIMBURSEMENT FOR A HOUSE HUNTING TRIP BECAUSE THE PROPER OFFICIALS HAD NOT AUTHORIZED THE TRIP PRIOR TO THE TIME IT WAS TAKEN. THE FSM PROVISIONS WERE AMENDED IN NOVEMBER 1969. ADMINISTRATIVE ERRORS WHICH MAY BE RETROACTIVELY CORRECTED TO INCREASE OR DECREASE BENEFITS ALLOWABLE TO EMPLOYEES ARE THOSE WHICH RELATE TO A FAILURE TO FOLLOW THE SPECIFIC INTENT OF THE AUTHORIZING OFFICIAL.

B-168797, MAR. 6, 1970

OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES--TRANSFERS--RELOCATION EXPENSES--TRANSPORTATION FOR HOUSE HUNTING--AUTHORIZATION WHILE IMMEDIATE SUPERVISOR VERBALLY AUTHORIZED HOUSE-HUNTING TRIP DURING JUNE 2 TO 5, 1969, PRIOR TO PERMANENT CHANGE-OF-DUTY STATION TO SALEM, MO; EFFECTIVE JULY 7, 1969, EMPLOYEE MAY NOT BE REIMBURSED FOR HOUSE-HUNTING TRANSPORTATION AND TRAVEL EXPENSES BECAUSE PROPER OFFICIALS HAD NOT AUTHORIZED TRIP PRIOR TO TIME IT WAS TAKEN, SUPERVISOR NOT HAVING SUCH AUTHORITY, AND ADMINISTRATIVE ERRORS FOR CORRECTION TO INCREASE OR DECREASE ALLOWABLE BENEFITS ARE THOSE RELATING TO FAILURE TO FOLLOW SPECIFIC INTENT OF AUTHORIZING OFFICIAL, SUPERVISOR'S FAILURE TO OBTAIN PROPER AUTHORIZATION DUE TO UNFAMILIARITY WITH REGULATIONS NOT BEING CONSTRUED AS ADMINISTRATIVE ERROR FOR EXCEPTION. SEE COMP. GEN. DECS. CITED.

TO MR. GORDON W. MARSHALL:

YOUR LETTER OF DECEMBER 30, 1969, REFERENCE 6540, REQUESTS A DECISION ON THE ALLOWABILITY OF THE ENCLOSED VOUCHER OF MR. D. CRAIG BEARDSLEY IN THE AMOUNT OF $214.44 FOR TRANSPORTATION AND TRAVEL EXPENSES HE INCURRED DURING A HOUSE HUNTING TRIP PRIOR TO HIS PERMANENT CHANGE OF DUTY STATION TO SALEM, MISSOURI, EFFECTIVE JULY 7, 1969.

MR. BEARDSLEY MADE THE HOUSE HUNTING TRIP DURING JUNE 2 TO 5, 1969. HIS TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION, ISSUED ON JUNE 26, 1969, DID NOT COVER THE HOUSE HUNTING TRIP. YOU POINT OUT THAT MR. BEARDSLEY HAD THE VERBAL AUTHORIZATION OF HIS IMMEDIATE SUPERVISOR. THE SUPERVISOR, HOWEVER, DID NOT HAVE AUTHORITY TO GRANT SUCH APPROVAL. THE TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION INCLUDES THE AGREEMENT REQUIRED BY SECTION 1.3 OF BUREAU OF THE BUDGET CIRCULAR NO. A-56.

YOU STATE THAT THE NORTH CENTRAL FOREST EXPERIMENT STATION IN ST. PAUL, MINNESOTA, HAD THE DELEGATED AUTHORITY TO APPROVE THE TRAVEL. YOU URGE THAT SINCE THE EXPERIMENT STATION HAD EVERY INTENTION TO AUTHORIZE THE HOUSE HUNTING TRIP FOR MR. BEARDSLEY ITS FAILURE TO DO SO WHICH CAN BE ATTRIBUTED TO ADMINISTRATIVE CONFUSION SHOULD BE CONSTRUED AS AN ADMINISTRATIVE ERROR.

YOU NOTE THE SIMILARITY IN THE SITUATION HERE TO THAT IN OUR DECISION B- 166977, JUNE 18, 1969, WHICH DENIED REIMBURSEMENT FOR A HOUSE HUNTING TRIP BECAUSE THE PROPER OFFICIALS HAD NOT AUTHORIZED THE TRIP PRIOR TO THE TIME IT WAS TAKEN.

SECTION 6543.53D--2, ITEM 3, OF THE FOREST SERVICE MANUAL (FSM) SETS FORTH THE PROCEDURAL REQUIREMENTS WHICH PRECLUDE POST APPROVAL OF A HOUSE HUNTING TRIP. THE FSM PROVISIONS WERE AMENDED IN NOVEMBER 1969, TO PROVIDE FOR POST APPROVAL ONLY IN CASES OF ADMINISTRATIVE ERROR. SEE B- 162955, JANUARY 17, 1968, AND B-163516, MARCH 5, 1968, REFERRED TO IN THE ABOVE-CITED SECTION OF THE FSM.

ADMINISTRATIVE ERRORS WHICH MAY BE RETROACTIVELY CORRECTED TO INCREASE OR DECREASE BENEFITS ALLOWABLE TO EMPLOYEES ARE THOSE WHICH RELATE TO A FAILURE TO FOLLOW THE SPECIFIC INTENT OF THE AUTHORIZING OFFICIAL. THE FAILURE OF MR. ALBEE'S SUPERVISORS TO OBTAIN THE PROPER AUTHORIZATION FOR THE HOUSE HUNTING TRIP BECAUSE OF THEIR UNFAMILIARITY WITH THE APPLICABLE REGULATIONS CANNOT BE CONSTRUED TO BE AN ADMINISTRATIVE ERROR WHEREBY AN EXCEPTION TO THE REGULATORY REQUIREMENTS MAY BE GRANTED.

ACCORDINGLY, THE VOUCHER WHICH IS RETURNED MAY NOT BE CERTIFIED FOR PAYMENT.