B-175802, JUL 24, 1972

B-175802: Jul 24, 1972

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REIMBURSEMENT FOR EXPENSES OF A HOUSE HUNTING TRIP ARE AUTHORIZED UNDER SECTION 2.4. WILL BE ALLOWED ONLY WHEN THERE IS ADVANCE AUTHORIZATION OF THE HOUSE HUNTING TRIP. SINCE EMPLOYEE MADE THE TRIP BEFORE HIS PERMANENT CHANGE OF STATION TRAVEL WAS APPROVED. NO RECOVERY WILL BE ALLOWED. YOU HAVE FORWARDED A VOUCHER AND SUPPORTING PAPERS AND REQUEST OUR DECISION AS TO WHETHER MR. HIS TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION FOR PERMANENT CHANGE OF STATION TRAVEL WAS NOT APPROVED UNTIL JANUARY 28. YOU STATE THAT: "THERE IS NOTHING IN THE TRAVEL ORDER AUTHORIZING A HOUSE-HUNTING TRIP NOR ANY EVIDENCE FURNISHED OF A PRIOR VERBAL OR WRITTEN AUTHORIZATION FOR THE HOUSE-HUNTING TRIP BY A PROPER OFFICIAL.". AUTHORITY FOR REIMBURSEMENT OF THE EXPENSES OF A HOUSE HUNTING TRIP WAS FOUND IN SECTION 2.4 OF BUREAU OF THE BUDGET (NOW OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET) CIRCULAR NO.

B-175802, JUL 24, 1972

CIVILIAN EMPLOYEES - TRANSFERS - INCIDENTAL EXPENSES DECISION DENYING REIMBURSEMENT TO MR. GAINES W. BEARDEN, EMPLOYEE OF THE FOREST SERVICE, FOR EXPENSES INCURRED ON A HOUSE HUNTING TRIP MADE INCIDENT TO HIS TRANSFER OF OFFICIAL STATION FROM HOLBROOK, ARIZ., TO ALBUQUERQUE, N. MEX. REIMBURSEMENT FOR EXPENSES OF A HOUSE HUNTING TRIP ARE AUTHORIZED UNDER SECTION 2.4, OMB CIRCULAR NO. A-56, AND WILL BE ALLOWED ONLY WHEN THERE IS ADVANCE AUTHORIZATION OF THE HOUSE HUNTING TRIP. SINCE EMPLOYEE MADE THE TRIP BEFORE HIS PERMANENT CHANGE OF STATION TRAVEL WAS APPROVED, NO RECOVERY WILL BE ALLOWED.

TO MR. ARVIN L. WHITE:

BY YOUR LETTER OF APRIL 21, 1972, REFERENCE 6540, YOU HAVE FORWARDED A VOUCHER AND SUPPORTING PAPERS AND REQUEST OUR DECISION AS TO WHETHER MR. GAINES W. BEARDEN MAY BE REIMBURSED FOR THE EXPENSES OF A HOUSE HUNTING TRIP UNDERTAKEN INCIDENT TO HIS TRANSFER OF OFFICIAL STATION FROM HOLBROOK, ARIZONA, TO ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO.

ON JANUARY 23, 1969, MR. BEARDEN SUBMITTED A TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION REQUEST FOR PERMANENT CHANGE OF STATION TRAVEL, WHICH INCLUDED HIS REQUEST FOR TRAVEL FOR THE HOUSE HUNTING TRIP, AND SIGNED AN AGREEMENT TO REMAIN IN GOVERNMENT SERVICE FOR 12 MONTHS. HE LEFT HOLBROOK, ARIZONA, ON HIS HOUSE HUNTING TRIP ON JANUARY 24, 1969, BUT HIS TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION FOR PERMANENT CHANGE OF STATION TRAVEL WAS NOT APPROVED UNTIL JANUARY 28, 1969. IT DID NOT INCLUDE AN AUTHORIZATION FOR A HOUSE HUNTING TRIP. YOU STATE THAT:

"THERE IS NOTHING IN THE TRAVEL ORDER AUTHORIZING A HOUSE-HUNTING TRIP NOR ANY EVIDENCE FURNISHED OF A PRIOR VERBAL OR WRITTEN AUTHORIZATION FOR THE HOUSE-HUNTING TRIP BY A PROPER OFFICIAL."

AT THE TIME OF MR. BEARDEN'S TRAVEL, AUTHORITY FOR REIMBURSEMENT OF THE EXPENSES OF A HOUSE HUNTING TRIP WAS FOUND IN SECTION 2.4 OF BUREAU OF THE BUDGET (NOW OFFICE OF MANAGEMENT AND BUDGET) CIRCULAR NO. A-56, REVISED OCTOBER 12, 1966. SUBPARAGRAPH C OF THIS SECTION PROVIDED IN PART:

"(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. AN EMPLOYEE WILL BE IN A DUTY STATUS DURING THE AUTHORIZED OR APPROVED ROUND TRIP PERIOD OF ABSENCE."

ALTHOUGH THE FINAL SENTENCE OF THE REGULATION, QUOTED ABOVE, REFERS TO "APPROVED ROUND TRIP" OUR DECISIONS OF JANUARY 17, 1968, B-162955, AND MARCH 5, 1968, B-163516, INTERPRETED THE FIRST SENTENCE OF SUBPARAGRAPH 3, QUOTED ABOVE, AS REQUIRING IN EACH CASE ADVANCE AUTHORIZATION OF THE HOUSE HUNTING TRIP. MOREOVER, THE FOREST SERVICE HEADQUARTERS ISSUED SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS IN NOVEMBER 1968 REQUIRING ADVANCE AUTHORIZATIONS FOR HOUSE HUNTING TRIPS. (SECTION 6543.53D-2, ITEM 3, FOREST SERVICE MANUAL (FSM).) THE FSM PROVISIONS WERE AMENDED IN NOVEMBER 1969 TO PROVIDE FOR POST APPROVAL ONLY IN CASES OF ADMINISTRATIVE ERROR. IN SUBMITTING HIS RECLAIM VOUCHER, MR. BEARDEN REFERS TO THE AMENDMENT AND APPARENTLY BELIEVES THAT POST APPROVAL MAY BE GRANTED ON THE BASIS THAT AN "ADMINISTRATIVE ERROR" HAS OCCURRED.

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. THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT THE FAILURE TO AUTHORIZE MR. BEARDEN'S HOUSE HUNTING TRIP IN ADVANCE WAS DUE TO AN ADMINISTRATIVE ERROR UNDER WHICH AN EXCEPTION TO THE REGULATORY REQUIREMENT OF ADVANCE AUTHORIZATION MAY BE GRANTED. SEE B-168797, MARCH 6, 1970, COPY ENCLOSED.

THE DECISION CITED IN YOUR SUBMISSION, B-173110, JULY 13, 1971, AND DISCUSSED IN B-168614, OCTOBER 18, 1971, IS NOT APPLICABLE TO THE PRESENT CASE SINCE IT INVOLVED A SITUATION WHERE THE EMPLOYEE HAD BEEN ERRONEOUSLY ADVISED THAT HE WAS AUTHORIZED TO BEGIN HIS TRAVEL WHEN IN FACT THE TRAVEL ORDER WAS NOT ISSUED UNTIL AFTER TRAVEL HAD COMMENCED.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, THE VOUCHER WHICH IS RETURNED HEREWITH MAY NOT BE CERTIFIED FOR PAYMENT.