B-181094, OCT 9, 1974

B-181094: Oct 9, 1974

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Edda Emmanuelli Perez
(202) 512-2853
EmmanuelliPerezE@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

BECAUSE OF ADMINISTRATIVE ERROR IN CONSTRUING REGULATIONS AS PRECLUDING PAYMENT OF PER DIEM INCIDENT TO EMPLOYEE'S PARTICULAR TEMPORARY DUTY ASSIGNMENT WRITTEN TRAVEL ORDERS WERE OT ISSUED ISSUED UNDER EXCEPTION TO REQUIREMENTS FOR THEIR PRIOR ISSUANCE CONTAINED AT PAR. WHERE NO PER DIEM IS PAYABLE. SINCE PARTICULAR NATURE OF ERROR IS RESPONSIBLE FOR NONISSUANCE OF TRAVEL ORDERS. AUTHORIZATION OF TRAVEL EXPENSES BY RETROACTIVE TRAVEL ORDERS: THIS DECISION IS IN RESPONSE TO A LETTER OF MARCH 14. WAS FORWARDED HERE ON APRIL 17. HE REQUESTED A TRANSFER TO THE SCHENECTADY AREA AND THE REQUESTED TRANSFER WAS ULTIMATELY OBTAINED EFFECTIVE JANUARY 21. CORCUTT WAS AGAIN ASSIGNED TO TEMPORARY DUTY AT SCHENECTADY FROM SEPTEMBER 9 TO SEPTEMBER 30.

B-181094, OCT 9, 1974

BECAUSE OF ADMINISTRATIVE ERROR IN CONSTRUING REGULATIONS AS PRECLUDING PAYMENT OF PER DIEM INCIDENT TO EMPLOYEE'S PARTICULAR TEMPORARY DUTY ASSIGNMENT WRITTEN TRAVEL ORDERS WERE OT ISSUED ISSUED UNDER EXCEPTION TO REQUIREMENTS FOR THEIR PRIOR ISSUANCE CONTAINED AT PAR. C2050.3, JTR, WHERE NO PER DIEM IS PAYABLE. SINCE PARTICULAR NATURE OF ERROR IS RESPONSIBLE FOR NONISSUANCE OF TRAVEL ORDERS, IT MAY BE REGARDED UNDER PAR. C2050.1 AS UNUSUAL SITUATION WHICH PREVENTED THEIR ISSUANCE AND PAYMENT MAY BE MADE ON BASIS OF SUBSEQUENT APPROVAL OF CLAIMS VOUCHERS AS AUTHORIZED BY PAR. C2050.3.

AUTHORIZATION OF TRAVEL EXPENSES BY RETROACTIVE TRAVEL ORDERS:

THIS DECISION IS IN RESPONSE TO A LETTER OF MARCH 14, 1974, FROM THE ACCOUNTING AND FINANCE OFFICER, DEFENSE SUPPLY AGENCY (DSA), DEFENSE CONTRACT ADMINISTRATION SERVICES REGION, BOSTON (REFERENCE DCRB-FA), REQUESTING AN ADVANCE DECISION AS TO WHETHER TWO VOUCHERS COVERING TRAVEL EXPENSES OF MR. GILBERT W. CORCUTT, A DSA EMPLOYEE, MAY BE PAID. THE LETTER, TOGETHER WITH THE VOUCHERS AND OTHER PAPERS, WAS FORWARDED HERE ON APRIL 17, 1974, BY THE PER DIEM TRAVEL AND TRANSPORTATION ALLOWANCE COMMITTEE (PDTATAC), HAVING THERE BEEN ASSIGNED PDTATAC CONTROL NO. 74- 16.

MR. CORCUTT PERFORMED TEMPORARY DUTY IN JUNE AND JULY OF 1973 AT THE DEFENSE CONTRACT ADMINISTRATION SERVICES OFFICE (DCASO), CONSOLIDATED DIESEL ELECTRIC COMPANY (CONDEC), SCHENECTADY, NEW YORK, SOME 18/ MILES AWAY FROM HIS PERMANENT STATION AT THE DCASO, CONDEC PLANT AT OLD GREENWICH, CONNECTICUT. IN AUGUST OF 1973 HE MOVED HIS FAMILY AND RESIDENCE TO THE SCHENECTADY AREA. HE REQUESTED A TRANSFER TO THE SCHENECTADY AREA AND THE REQUESTED TRANSFER WAS ULTIMATELY OBTAINED EFFECTIVE JANUARY 21, 1974. PRIOR TO THE TRANSFER, HOWEVER, MR. CORCUTT WAS AGAIN ASSIGNED TO TEMPORARY DUTY AT SCHENECTADY FROM SEPTEMBER 9 TO SEPTEMBER 30, 1973, AND FROM OCTOBER 8 TO NOVEMBER 18, 1973.

MR. CORCUTT'S ASSIGNMENTS TO THE CONDEC PLANT IN SCHENECTADY WERE ACCOMPLISHED BY A SERIES OF INTEREFFICE MEMORANDA DESCRIBING THE ACTIONS AS "TEMPORARY DETAIL ASSIGNMENT," ALTHOUGH SUCH PROCEDURE WAS NOT IN ACCORDANCE WITH PERSONNEL ACTION REGULATIONS AND REQUIREMENTS. THIS PROCEDURE, RATHER THAN THE ISSUANCE OF FORMAL WRITTEN TRAVEL ORDERS, WAS USED BY MR. CORCUTT'S SUPERVISORS IN THE ERRONEOUS BELIEF THAT THERE WAS NO AUTHORITY FOR PAYMENT OF PER DIEM WHERE WORK WAS BEING PERFORMED AT THE PLACE OF EMPLOYEE'S DOMICILE. LATER IT WAS DETERMINED THAT MR. CORCUTT WAS ENTITLED TO PER DIEM IN CONNECTION WITH THOSE ASSIGNMENTS UNDER PARAGRAPH C8050 OF THE JOINT TRAVEL REGULATIONS (JTR), VOLUME 2, NOTWITHSTANDING THAT THE TEMPORARY DUTY WAS PERFORMED AT THE PLACE OF HIS FAMILY'S DOMICILE, INASMUCH AS THAT RESIDENCE WAS OTHER THAN THE PLACE FROM WHICH HE COMMUTED TO WORK EACH DAY WHEN AT HIS PERMANENT STATION. THE BASIS OF THAT DETERMINATION TRAVEL ORDERS DATED FEBRUARY 5 AND 6, 1974, WERE ISSUED RETROACTIVELY TO CORRESPOND WITH THE PERIODS OF TEMPORARY DETAIL ASSIGNMENT COVERED BY THE INTEROFFICE MEMORANDA. BOTH AUTHORIZED THE USE OF A PRIVATELY OWNED VEHICLE AND REIMBURSEMENT FOR MILEAGE AT 11 CENTS PER MILE AS WELL AS A REDUCED PER DIEM RATE OF NOT TO EXCEED $11.80. VOUCHERS SUBMITTED BY MR. CORCUTT ON THE BASIS OF THESE ORDERS ARE IN THE AMOUNTS OF $279 AND $526.80 COVERING A TOTAL PERIOD OF APPROXIMATELY 61 DAYS.

THE PROPRIETY OF PAYMENT ON THE VOUCHERS IS QUESTIONED BY DSA ON THE BASIS THAT THE TRAVEL ORDERS DO NOT APPEAR TO MEET THE REQUIREMENTS FOR "CONFIRMATORY TRAVEL ORDERS," AS DESCRIBED IN PARAGRAPH C2051 OF THE JTR, NOR DO THEY APPEAR TO CONSTITUTE AMENDED ORDERS AS DESCRIBED IN PARAGRAPH C2053 OF THE JTR SINCE NO PRIOR WRITTEN TRAVEL ORDERS HAD BEEN ISSUED WHICH WOULD BE SUSCEPTIBLE TO AMENDMENT.

IN THE INSTANT CASE WE ARE CONFRONTED WITH A SITUATION IN WHICH THE AGENCY'S FAILURE TO ISSUE WRITTEN TRAVEL ORDERS WAS BASED ON THE ERRONEOUS ASSUMPTION THAT MR. CORCUTT COULD NOT BE PAID PER DIEM IN CONNECTION WITH THE TEMPORARY ASSIGNMENTS IN SCHENECTADY. HAD THAT ASSUMPTION BEEN CORRECT, THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN NO NECESSITY FOR ISSUANCE OF PRIOR WRITTEN ORDERS. SUBPARAGRAPH C2050.3 OF THE JTR PROVIDES AN EXCEPTION TO THE GENERAL REQUIREMENT FOR ISSUANCE OF PRIOR WRITTEN ORDERS IN TWO INSTANCES AS FOLLOWS:

"3. EXCEPTIONS.WHEN TRAVEL IS PERFORMED WITHIN THE LIMITS OF A PERMANENT DUTY STATION OR IN THE IMMEDIATE VICINITY OF SUCH STATION, AUTHORIZATION BY A TRAVEL-DIRECTING OFFICIAL MAY BE ORAL, BY LETTER OR MESSAGE, OR BY TRAVEL ORDER IF DEEMED APPROPRIATE FOR FUND APPROVAL PURPOSES. GENERALLY, TRAVEL ORDERS ARE NOT NECESSARY WHEN IT IS KNOWN THAT THE CLAIM FOR TRAVEL EXPENSES WILL NOT INVOLVE THE PAYMENT OF PER DIEM AND WILL INVOLVE ONLY REIMBURSEMENT FOR COMMERCIAL TRANSPORTATION IN THE CONDUCT OF OFFICIAL BUSINESS OR MILEAGE ALLOWANCE FOR THE USE OF A PRIVATELY OWNED CONVEYANCE APPROVED AS BEING MORE ADVANTAGEOUS TO THE GOVERNMENT. IF A TRAVEL ORDER IS NOT ISSUED, APPROVAL ON A CLAIM VOUCHER WILL SUFFICE FOR REIMBURSEMENT PURPOSES (SEE PAR. C10009)."

UNDER THE SECOND SENTENCE OF THE ABOVE SUBPARAGRAPH, THE INTERAGENCY MEMORANDA DIRECTING TRAVEL ARE THE PRACTICAL EQUIVALENT OF TRAVEL ORDERS INSOFAR AS AN EMPLOYEE'S ENTITLEMENT TO REIMBURSEMENT FOR COMMERCIAL TRANSPORTATION EXPENSES OR MILEAGE IS CONCERNED, SUBJECT ONLY TO APPROVAL OF THE CLAIM VOUCHERS. THE ONLY OTHER EXCEPTIONS TO THE GENERAL REQUIREMENT FOR ISSUANCE OF PRIOR WRITTEN TRAVEL ORDERS ARE PROVIDED AT SUBPARAGRAPH C2050.1 IN CASES OF EMERGENCY OR WHERE AN UNUSUAL SITUATION PREVENTS THEIR PRIOR ISSUANCE.

HAD WRITTEN TRAVEL ORDERS BEEN ISSUED PRIOR TO THE TRAVEL THEY WOULD HAVE BEEN SUSCEPTIBLE TO AMENDMENT IN ACCORDANCE WITH PARAGRPAH C2053 OF THE JTR WHICH PROVIDES IN PERTINENT PART AS FOLLOWS:

"C2053 AMENDMENT OF TRAVEL ORDER

"1. PURPOSE. AN ISSUED TRAVEL ORDER MAY BE CHANGED OR CORRECTED WITHIN CERTAIN LIMITATIONS BY THE ISSUANCE OF AN AMENDMENT. AN AMENDMENT MAY BE ISSUED BEFORE OR AFTER COMPLETION OF TRAVEL UNDER THE ORDER BEING AMENDED TO:

"1. RECOGNIZE SOME ESSENTIAL ASPECT OF TRAVEL NOT KNOWN IN ADVANCE,

"2. CHANGE THE PERIOD OR PLACE OF TEMPORARY DUTY ASSIGNMENT,

"3. INCLUDE OMITTED PERTINENT INFORMATION,

"4. CHANGE ALLOWANCES FOR UPERFORMED TRAVEL OR DUTY,

"5. CORRECT ERRONEOUS INFORMATION OR CLERICAL ERRORS THAT DO NOT AFFECT REIMBURSEMENT RETROACTIVELY.

"2. RETROACTIVE PROMIBITION. AN AMENDMENT WILL NOT BE ISSUED WITH RETROACTIVE EFFECT CHANGING PER DIEM OR MILEAGE RATES AND BASIS OF REIMBURSEMENT THEREFOR ON TRAVEL PERFORMED UNDER THE AUTHORITY PRESCRIBED IN A TRAVEL ORDER (28 COMP. GEN. 732)."

THE ABOVE PROVISION IS CONSISTENT WITH DECISIONS OF THIS OFFICE WHICH RECOGNIZE THAT LEGAL RIGHTS AND LIABILITIES IN REGARD TO TRAVEL ALLOWANCES VEST WHEN AND AS TRAVEL IS PERFORMED UNDER ORDERS AND THAT SUCH ORDERS MAY NOT BE MODIFIED RETROACTIVELY TO INCREASE OR DECREASE RIGHTS UNLESS ERROR IS APPARENT ON THE FACT OF THE ORDER, OR ALL FACTS AND CIRCUMSTANCES CLEARLY DEMONSTRATE THAT SOME PROVISION PREVIOUSLY DETERMINED AND DEFINITELY INTENDED HAS BEEN OMITTED THROUGH ERROR OR INADVERTENCE. COMP. GEN. 119 (1968). THUS, WHERE AN ARMY INSTALLATION ISSUED A TRAVEL ORDER AUTHORIZING PAYMENT OF PER DIEM EXPENSES CONTRARY TO CLEARLY ESTABLISHED AGENCY POLICY, WE HELD THAT ERRONEOUS AUTHORIZATION TO CONSTITUTE AN ERROR THAT COULD BE CORRECTED BY RETROACTIVE MODIFICATION TO THE TRAVEL ORDERS. B-176477, FEBRUARY 1, 1973.

IF MR. CORCUTT HAD BEEN ISSUED WRITTEN TRAVEL ORDERS WHICH FAILED TO PROVIDE FOR PER DIEM IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE INTENT OF HIS SUPERVISOR TO AUTHORIZE SUCH TRAVE BENEFITS AS HE MIGHT BE ENTITLED UNDER THE JTR, THOSE ORDERS WOULD HAVE BEEN SIMILARLY SUSCEPTIBLE TO AMENDMENT. THUS, WE ARE CONFRONTED WITH THE UNUSUAL SITUATION THAT THE PARTICULAR ERROR MADE, WHICH ORDINARILY WOULD HAVE BEEN SUBJECT TO CORRECTION BY AMENDMENT TO WRITTEN TRAVEL ORDERS, IS RESPONSIBLE AS WELL FOR THE FACT THAT WRITTEN ORDERS WHICH MIGTH HAVE BEEN AMENDED WERE NOT ISSUED. IN VIEW OF ITS PARTICULAR NATURE AND CONSEQUENCE, THE ADMINISTRATIVE ERROR IN ASSUMING THAT MR. CORCUTT COULD NOT BE AUTHORIZED PER DIEM IN CONNECTION WITH THE TEMPORARY DUTY ASSIGNMENTS MAY BE REGARDED AS AN UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCE WHICH, WITHIN THE LANGUAGE OF SUBPARAGRAPH C2050.1 OF THE JTR, REFERENCED ABOVE, WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR HAVING PREVENTED ISSUANCE OF PRIOR TRAVEL ORDERS. IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PROCEDURE SET FORTH AT SUBPARAGRAPH C2050.3 OF THE JTR, QUOTED ABOVE, PAYMENT OF MR. CORCUTT'S CLAIM MAY BE MADE BASED UPON APPROVAL OF THE CLAIMS VOUCHERS.