B-171583, MAR 23, 1971

B-171583: Mar 23, 1971

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THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER HAS DISCRETIONARY AUTHORITY TO DETERMINE WHETHER PER DIEM PAYMENTS WILL BE AUTHORIZED AT ALL AND. INCIDENT TO THIS IS THE AUTHORITY TO ORDER THE RETURN OF A TRAVELER TO HIS OFFICIAL STATION ON NONWORKDAYS. DOES NOT VIEW A SAVINGS OF $7.50 WHICH WOULD HAVE RESULTED FROM CLAIMANT'S RETURN TO HEADQUARTERS EACH WEEKEND AS SUFFICIENTLY SIGNIFICANT TO HAVE REQUIRED THE RETURN. RAND: THIS WILL REFER TO YOUR LETTER OF DECEMBER 17. YOU EXPRESS DOUBT AS TO THE LEGALITY OF THE CLAIM FOR PER DIEM BECAUSE IT INCLUDES 9 WEEKEND NONWORKDAYS AT A RATE OF $18 PER DAY ON WHICH NO OFFICIAL DUTY WAS PERFORMED (OCTOBER 3. THE MAXIMUM REIMBURSEMENT ALLOWABLE FOR THE ROUND-TRIP TRANSPORTATION AND PER DIEM EN ROUTE WILL BE THE TRAVEL EXPENSE WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN ALLOWABLE HAD THE TRAVELER REMAINED AT HIS TEMPORARY DUTY STATION.".

B-171583, MAR 23, 1971

PER DIEM ALLOWANCE - NONWORKDAYS DECISION ALLOWING CLAIM BY SIDNEY LYNN FOR $578.95 COVERING PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE INCIDENT TO TEMPORARY DUTY TRAVEL AT POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. ALTHOUGH THE CLAIM FOR PER DIEM INCLUDES 9 WEEKEND NONWORKDAYS, THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER HAS DISCRETIONARY AUTHORITY TO DETERMINE WHETHER PER DIEM PAYMENTS WILL BE AUTHORIZED AT ALL AND, IF SO, THE RATE TO BE PAID. INCIDENT TO THIS IS THE AUTHORITY TO ORDER THE RETURN OF A TRAVELER TO HIS OFFICIAL STATION ON NONWORKDAYS. WIDE DISCRETION, HOWEVER, SHOULD BE PERMITTED THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER AND THE COMP. GEN. DOES NOT VIEW A SAVINGS OF $7.50 WHICH WOULD HAVE RESULTED FROM CLAIMANT'S RETURN TO HEADQUARTERS EACH WEEKEND AS SUFFICIENTLY SIGNIFICANT TO HAVE REQUIRED THE RETURN.

TO MR. JACK H. RAND:

THIS WILL REFER TO YOUR LETTER OF DECEMBER 17, 1970, REQUESTING A DECISION OF THIS OFFICE AS TO WHETHER YOU MAY CERTIFY FOR PAYMENT A TRAVEL VOUCHER IN THE FULL AMOUNT OF $578.95 SUBMITTED BY MR. SIDNEY LYNN.

THE VOUCHER FOR THE MOST PART COVERS PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE FOR TEMPORARY DUTY TRAVEL PERFORMED BY MR. LYNN DURING THE PERIOD OCTOBER 1- 31, 1970, AT POUGHKEEPSIE, NEW YORK, AS PART OF A 90-DAY ASSIGNMENT. THE CLAIM INCLUDES PER DIEM IN AN AMOUNT OF $558; $19.50 FOR MILEAGE FOR A ROUND TRIP BETWEEN POUGHKEEPSIE AND FLUSHING, NEW YORK, HIS OFFICIAL STATION, ON OCTOBER 26, 1970; AND $1.45 FOR "P AND T," AN ITEM NOT OTHERWISE EXPLAINED.

YOU EXPRESS DOUBT AS TO THE LEGALITY OF THE CLAIM FOR PER DIEM BECAUSE IT INCLUDES 9 WEEKEND NONWORKDAYS AT A RATE OF $18 PER DAY ON WHICH NO OFFICIAL DUTY WAS PERFORMED (OCTOBER 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25, 31). IN THIS CONNECTION YOU REFER TO SUBSECTION 6.4 OF THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS, WHICH PROVIDES AS FOLLOWS:

"6.4 RETURN TO OFFICIAL STATION. - AT THE DISCRETION OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIALS A TRAVELER MAY BE REQUIRED TO RETURN TO HIS OFFICIAL STATION FOR NONWORK DAYS. IN CASES OF VOLUNTARY RETURN OF A TRAVELER FOR NONWORK DAYS TO HIS OFFICIAL STATION, OR HIS PLACE OF ABODE FROM WHICH HE COMMUTES DAILY TO HIS OFFICIAL STATION, THE MAXIMUM REIMBURSEMENT ALLOWABLE FOR THE ROUND-TRIP TRANSPORTATION AND PER DIEM EN ROUTE WILL BE THE TRAVEL EXPENSE WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN ALLOWABLE HAD THE TRAVELER REMAINED AT HIS TEMPORARY DUTY STATION."

YOUR QUESTIONS ARE AS FOLLOWS:

"1. SINCE THE DETERMINATION AS TO WHETHER A TRAVELER SHOULD BE REQUIRED TO RETURN TO HIS OFFICIAL STATION FOR NONWORK DAYS IS LEFT TO THE DISCRETION OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIAL, MAY THE CERTIFYING OFFICER APPROVE THE VOUCHER FOR PAYMENT EVEN THOUGH IN HIS OPINION IT WOULD HAVE BEEN MORE ECONOMICAL FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO REQUIRE THE EMPLOYEE TO RETURN?

"2. SHOULD TRAVELERS BE REQUIRED TO RETURN FOR NONWORK DAYS, IF SUCH RETURN WOULD RESULT IN APPRECIABLE SAVINGS TO THE GOVERNMENT AND WOULD NOT REQUIRE UNREASONABLE TRAVELLING TIME? IF SO, CAN GUIDELINES BE ESTABLISHED AS TO THE CONDITIONS UNDER WHICH THE REQUIREMENT TO RETURN CEASES TO BE DISCRETIONARY."

WITH REFERENCE TO YOUR FIRST QUESTION, WE WOULD POINT OUT THAT AN ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER HAS, AB INITIO, DISCRETIONARY AUTHORITY TO DETERMINE WHETHER PER DIEM PAYMENTS FOR TRAVEL WILL BE AUTHORIZED AT ALL AND, IF SO, THE RATE TO BE PAID. (SUBSECTION 6.2, STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS.) THE AUTHORITY TO ORDER THE RETURN OF A TRAVELER TO HIS OFFICIAL DUTY STATION IS INCIDENTAL TO THIS BASIC AUTHORITY.

IN REPLY TO YOUR QUESTION CONCERNING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE DISCRETIONARY AUTHORITY OF AN ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER TO REQUIRE A TRAVELER TO RETURN TO HEADQUARTERS AND THE DUTY OF A CERTIFYING OFFICER TO QUESTION EXPENDITURES INCURRED AS A RESULT OF THE FAILURE OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER TO EXERCISE THAT AUTHORITY, WE REFER TO THE FOLLOWING PROVISIONS OF THE ACT OF DECEMBER 29, 1941, 55 STAT. 875, PUBLIC LAW 389 OF THE 87TH CONGRESS, SUBSECTIONS 82C AND 82D OF TITLE 31, UNITED STATES CODE:

"SEC 82C. CERTIFYING OFFICERS; BOND; ACCOUNTABILITY; RELIEF BY COMPTROLLER GENERAL.

"THE OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE CERTIFYING A VOUCHER SHALL (1) BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THE EXISTENCE AND CORRECTNESS OF THE FACTS RECITED IN THE CERTIFICATE OR OTHERWISE STATED ON THE VOUCHER OR ITS SUPPORTING PAPERS AND FOR THE LEGALITY OF THE PROPOSED PAYMENT UNDER THE APPROPRIATION OR FUND INVOLVED; (2) *** AND (3) BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR AND REQUIRED TO MAKE GOOD TO THE UNITED STATES THE AMOUNT OF ANY ILLEGAL, IMPROPER, OR INCORRECT PAYMENT RESULTING FROM ANY FALSE, INACCURATE, OR MISLEADING CERTIFICATE MADE BY HIM, AS WELL AS FOR ANY PAYMENT PROHIBITED BY LAW OR WHICH DID NOT REPRESENT A LEGAL OBLIGATION UNDER THE APPROPRIATION OR FUND INVOLVED ***

"SEC 82D. SAME; ENFORCEMENT OF LIABILITY.

"THE LIABILITY OF CERTIFYING OFFICERS OR EMPLOYEES SHALL BE ENFORCED IN THE SAME MANNER AND TO THE SAME EXTENT AS NOW PROVIDED BY LAW WITH RESPECT TO ENFORCEMENT OF THE LIABILITY OF DISBURSING AND OTHER ACCOUNTABLE OFFICERS; AND THEY SHALL HAVE THE RIGHT TO APPLY FOR AND OBTAIN A DECISION BY THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL ON ANY QUESTION OF LAW INVOLVED IN A PAYMENT ON ANY VOUCHERS PRESENTED TO THEM FOR CERTIFICATION."

THE DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF CERTIFYING OFFICERS ARE FURTHER ELUCIDATED IN THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE POLICY AND PROCEDURE MANUAL, TITLE 3, CHAPTER 7, SECTION 26. IN 28 COMP. GEN. 425 (1949) WE HELD AS FOLLOWS:

" *** IT IS AXIOMATIC THAT IN PERFORMING HIS OFFICIAL DUTIES AS A CERTIFYING OFFICER AN EMPLOYEE IS DUTY-BOUND TO ACT IN SUCH A MANNER AND TO TAKE ALL NECESSARY STEPS TO INSURE ADEQUATE PROTECTION OF THE INTERESTS OF THE UNITED STATES. THAT DUTY IS AN INHERENT AND INTEGRAL PART OF THE POSITION OF CERTIFYING OFFICER, AND IN FUNCTIONING AS SUCH AN OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE ALWAYS SHOULD BE MINDFUL OF THAT RESPONSIBILITY. *** "

SEE ALSO 34 COMP. GEN. 52 (1954), 46 COMP. GEN. 135 (1966), AND 49 COMP. GEN. 38 (1969).

IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAW CITED ABOVE, YOUR ACTION IN SUBMITTING A DOUBTFUL CLAIM TO THIS OFFICE FOR AN ADVANCE DECISION IS CORRECT, AND THIS IS THE PROCEDURE WHICH SHOULD BE FOLLOWED IN SIMILAR CASES.

AS TO YOUR SECOND QUESTION CONCERNING THE RETURN OF A TRAVELER FROM A TEMPORARY DUTY STATION TO HEADQUARTERS ON NONWORKDAYS, WE WOULD COMMENT AS FOLLOWS:

THE REASON FOR REQUIRING THE RETURN OF THE TRAVELER TO HIS OFFICIAL STATION ON WEEKENDS IS TO EFFECT A SAVING OF PER DIEM OTHERWISE PAYABLE AT THE TEMPORARY DUTY STATION IN EXCESS OF ROUND TRIP TRANSPORTATION EXPENSES TO THE EMPLOYEE BETWEEN THE TEMPORARY DUTY STATION AND THE OFFICIAL DUTY STATION. THIS IS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE REQUIREMENT OF SUBSECTION 1.2 OF THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS OF PRUDENT EXPENDITURE OF GOVERNMENT FUNDS FOR TRAVEL.

IN VIEW OF THE MANY FACTORS INVOLVED IN A DETERMINATION AS TO THE PRUDENT USE OF GOVERNMENT FUNDS, WE BELIEVE WIDE DISCRETION SHOULD BE PERMITTED THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER IN DECIDING WHETHER A RETURN TO HEADQUARTERS ON NONWORKDAYS IS IN THE INTEREST OF THE GOVERNMENT. AS A PRACTICAL MATTER, NO HARD AND FAST STANDARDS, ON A DOLLAR AND CENTS BASIS, CAN REASONABLY BE ESTABLISHED. THEREFORE, EXCEPT WHERE A CLEAR MISUSE OF GOVERNMENT FUNDS OR OBVIOUS IRREGULARITIES ARE APPARENT, A CERTIFYING OFFICER IS NOT REQUIRED TO QUESTION THE APPROVAL BY AN ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER OF PER DIEM AT A TEMPORARY DUTY STATION ON NONWORKDAYS.

IN THIS CASE, WE NOTE THAT, HAD MR. LYNN BEEN REQUIRED TO RETURN TO HIS HEADQUARTERS ON WEEKENDS, HE WOULD HAVE BEEN ENTITLED TO MILEAGE PLUS PER DIEM (1/2 DAY) FOR THE TIME OCCUPIED BY SUCH TRAVEL. THIS WOULD AMOUNT TO $28.50 AS COMPARED TO PER DIEM OF $36 AT THE TEMPORARY DUTY STATION. DO NOT BELIEVE A SAVING OF $7.50 WHICH WOULD HAVE RESULTED FROM A RETURN TO HEADQUARTERS EACH WEEKEND IS SUFFICIENTLY SIGNIFICANT TO HAVE REQUIRED THE RETURN. SEE B-159599, JULY 29, 1966, COPY ENCLOSED.

THE VOUCHER ENCLOSED WITH YOUR LETTER IS RETURNED AND, IF OTHERWISE CORRECT, MAY BE CERTIFIED FOR PAYMENT.