B-173361, SEP 14, 1971

B-173361: Sep 14, 1971

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GAO DOES NOT QUESTION AN AGENCY'S DETERMINATION THAT TRAVEL BY PRIVATELY OWNED VEHICLE IS ADVANTAGEOUS TO THE GOVERNMENT UNLESS IT IS CLEARLY AT VARIANCE WITH THE FACTS. TALBOT WAS ORDERED TO UNDERTAKE ROUND-TRIP TRAVEL BETWEEN THE NAVAL SHIP RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT CENTER. TALBOT WAS REIMBURSED ONLY FOR MILEAGE. BASED UPON A DETERMINATION THAT USE OF THE PRIVATELY OWNED VEHICLE WAS ADVANTAGEOUS TO THE GOVERNMENT. THE AMBIGUITY AS TO ENTITLEMENT ARISES BECAUSE (1) THE TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION INCLUDED AN AMOUNT OF $37.50 PRESUMABLY REPRESENTING 1-1/2 DAYS PER DIEM (ALTHOUGH THE ITEM ON THE ORDER AUTHORIZING PER DIEM WAS NOT MARKED). THAT: "THE ORIGINAL INTENT OF THE SUBJECT ORDERS WAS TO HAVE MR.

B-173361, SEP 14, 1971

CIVILIAN EMPLOYEE - TRAVEL BY PRIVATELY OWNED VEHICLE DECISION ALLOWING REIMBURSEMENT FOR CERTAIN TEMPORARY DUTY TRAVEL PERFORMED BY MR. JOHN E. TALBOT ON THE BASIS OF TRAVEL VIA A PRIVATELY OWNED VEHICLE AS BEING ADVANTAGEOUS TO THE GOVERNMENT. GAO DOES NOT QUESTION AN AGENCY'S DETERMINATION THAT TRAVEL BY PRIVATELY OWNED VEHICLE IS ADVANTAGEOUS TO THE GOVERNMENT UNLESS IT IS CLEARLY AT VARIANCE WITH THE FACTS. IN THIS INSTANCE THE STATEMENT OF THE TRAVEL- APPROVING OFFICIAL MAY BE ACCEPTED AS SUCH A DETERMINATION, AND THE VOUCHER PAID ACCORDINGLY.

TO MISS A. HAZARD:

THIS REFERS TO YOUR LETTER OF JUNE 14, 1971 (REFERENCE D50:AH:SS 7100), REQUESTING OUR DECISION AS TO WHETHER CERTAIN TEMPORARY DUTY TRAVEL PERFORMED BY MR. JOHN E. TALBOT SHOULD BE REIMBURSED ON THE BASIS OF TRAVEL VIA A PRIVATELY OWNED VEHICLE AS ADVANTAGEOUS TO THE GOVERNMENT.

BY A TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION DATED MARCH 17, 1971, MR. TALBOT WAS ORDERED TO UNDERTAKE ROUND-TRIP TRAVEL BETWEEN THE NAVAL SHIP RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C., AND NATIONAL AERONAUTIC SPACE ADMINISTRATION LANGLEY RESEARCH CENTER, HAMPTON, VIRGINIA. THE TRAVEL ORDER AUTHORIZED USE OF A PRIVATELY OWNED VEHICLE, SO SIGNIFIED BY MARKING AFFIRMATIVELY THE SPACE ON THE FORM STATING "MILEAGE REIMBURSEMENT AND PER DIEM LIMITED TO CONSTRUCTIVE COST OF COMMON CARRIER TRANSPORTATION & RELATED PER DIEM AS DETERMINED IN JTR. TRAVEL TIME LIMITED AS INDICATED IN JTR." ACCORDINGLY, MR. TALBOT WAS REIMBURSED ONLY FOR MILEAGE, IN AN AMOUNT OF $40.70, IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE METHOD PRESCRIBED IN PARAGRAPH C 10157-2, JOINT TRAVEL REGULATIONS, VOLUME 2.

MR. TALBOT NOW CLAIMS REIMBURSEMENT OF AN ADDITIONAL AMOUNT, BASED UPON A DETERMINATION THAT USE OF THE PRIVATELY OWNED VEHICLE WAS ADVANTAGEOUS TO THE GOVERNMENT. THE AMBIGUITY AS TO ENTITLEMENT ARISES BECAUSE (1) THE TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION INCLUDED AN AMOUNT OF $37.50 PRESUMABLY REPRESENTING 1-1/2 DAYS PER DIEM (ALTHOUGH THE ITEM ON THE ORDER AUTHORIZING PER DIEM WAS NOT MARKED); (2) THE OFFICIAL WHO APPROVED THE ORIGINAL TRAVEL ORDER HAS SUPPLIED A STATEMENT DATED MAY 12, 1971, THAT:

"THE ORIGINAL INTENT OF THE SUBJECT ORDERS WAS TO HAVE MR. TALBOT TRAVEL IN HIS POV AS BEING MORE ADVANTAGEOUS TO THE GOVERNMENT. THROUGH EITHER ADMINISTRATIVE ERROR OR OVERSIGHT THE 'COST NOT TO EXCEED' BOX WAS CHECKED."

IT IS NOTED THAT MR. TALBOT CONVEYED ANOTHER EMPLOYEE TO AND FROM LANGLEY, VIRGINIA, THUS OBVIATING ANY COST OF TRANSPORTATION FOR HIM, A FACT TENDING TO CORROBORATE THE ABOVE-QUOTED STATEMENT THAT TRAVEL BY PRIVATELY OWNED CONVEYANCE WAS REGARDED AS ADVANTAGEOUS TO THE GOVERNMENT.

THIS OFFICE DOES NOT QUESTION AN AGENCY'S DETERMINATION THAT TRAVEL BY PRIVATELY OWNED AUTOMOBILE IS ADVANTAGEOUS TO THE GOVERNMENT UNLESS IT IS CLEARLY AT VARIANCE WITH THE FACTS OF THE CASE. SEE B-166493, APRIL 22, 1969, COPY ENCLOSED. IN THIS INSTANCE THE STATEMENT OF THE TRAVEL- APPROVING OFFICIAL MAY BE ACCEPTED AS SUCH A DETERMINATION. IT MAY BE FURTHER REGARDED AS IN THE NATURE OF AN AMENDMENT OF THE ORIGINAL TRAVEL ORDER TO CORRECT AN ADMINISTRATIVE ERROR RATHER THAN A RETROACTIVE MODIFICATION OF VESTED RIGHTS. 24 COMP. GEN. 439 (1944). ACCORDINGLY, THE VOUCHER RETURNED HEREWITH MAY BE PAID IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PROVISIONS OF PARAGRAPH C 10157-1 OF THE JOINT TRAVEL REGULATIONS, VOLUME 2.