B-182135, NOV 7, 1974

B-182135: Nov 7, 1974

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CLAIM FOR EXTRA WORK PERFORMED BY MOTHER-IN-LAW CANNOT BE ALLOWED SINCE EXTRA WORK IS MERELY ONE FACTOR IN DETERMINING REASONABLENESS OF CHARGES FOR MEALS AND LODGING. LIND - SUBSISTENCE EXPENSES AT TEMPORARY QUARTERS OWNED BY RELATIVE: THIS ACTION IS IN RESPONSE TO A REQUEST BY AN AUTHORIZED CERTIFYING OFFICER OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR. THE AMOUNTS CLAIMED FOR RENT AND EXTRA WORK HAVE BEEN QUESTIONED. WHEN THE EMPLOYEE IS TRANSFERRED TO A NEW OFFICIAL STATION. PROVIDED THESE ARE INCIDENT TO OCCUPANCY OF TEMPORARY QUARTERS AND ARE REASONABLE. GEN. 78 (1972) STATES THAT: "*** WE HAVE ALLOWED REIMBURSEMENT FOR CHARGES FOR TEMPORARY QUARTERS AND SUBSISTENCE SUPPLIED BY RELATIVES WHERE THE CHARGES HAVE APPEARED REASONABLE: THAT IS.

B-182135, NOV 7, 1974

TRANSFERRED EMPLOYEE WITH WIFE AND CHILD MAY BE ALLOWED REIMBURSEMENT FOR REASONABLE EXPENSES FOR ROOM AND BOARD INCURRED AT TEMPORARY QUARTERS OWNED BY RELATIVE, INCIDENT TO PERMANENT CHANGE OF STATION, BUT CLAIM FOR EXTRA WORK PERFORMED BY MOTHER-IN-LAW CANNOT BE ALLOWED SINCE EXTRA WORK IS MERELY ONE FACTOR IN DETERMINING REASONABLENESS OF CHARGES FOR MEALS AND LODGING.

GORDON S. LIND - SUBSISTENCE EXPENSES AT TEMPORARY QUARTERS OWNED BY RELATIVE:

THIS ACTION IS IN RESPONSE TO A REQUEST BY AN AUTHORIZED CERTIFYING OFFICER OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BUREAU OF RECLAMATION, REGARDING THE PROPRIETY OF CLAIMS FOR REIMBURSEMENT OF MR. GORDON S. LIND, A DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR EMPLOYEE. THE PART OF THE VOUCHER IN QUESTION INVOLVES EXPENSES FOR EXTRA WORK PERFORMED BY MR. LIND'S MOTHER- IN-LAW, IN ADDITION TO EXPENSES FOR MEALS AND RENT FOR MR. LIND AND HIS FAMILY AT TEMPORARY QUARTERS FURNISHED BY RELATIVES IN CONNECTION WITH A PERMANENT CHANGE OF STATION FROM OREGON TO PHOENIX, ARIZONA.

THE RECORD INDICATES THAT MR. LIND, WITH HIS PREGNANT WIFE AND 3-YEAR OLD DAUGHTER, TOOK UP RESIDENCE AT THE HOME OF HIS MOTHER AND FATHER-IN LAW IN PHOENIX, ARIZONA, HIS NEW DUTY STATION, FOR THE 3-WEEK PERIOD OF APRIL 30, 1974, THROUGH MAY 20, 1974. THE TRAVEL VOUCHER SHOWS THAT MR. LIND CLAIMED $115 FOR FOOD AND SUNDRIES FOR THAT PERIOD FOR HIMSELF, HIS WIFE AND DAUGHTER. HE CLAIMED $200 FOR RENT, INCLUDING UTILITIES, FOR AN AVERAGE OF $10 A DAY. HE ALSO CLAIMED $160 FOR EXTRA WORK PERFORMED BY HIS MOTHER-IN-LAW. WHILE THE AMOUNT CLAIMED FOR FOOD AND SUNDRIES HAS BEEN ACCEPTED BY THE AGENCY, THE AMOUNTS CLAIMED FOR RENT AND EXTRA WORK HAVE BEEN QUESTIONED.

PART 5 OF CHAPTER 2 OF FEDERAL PROPERTY MANAGEMENT REGULATIONS (FPMR) 101 -7, MAY 1, 1973, AUTHORIZES, UNDER PROPER CIRCUMSTANCES, THE PAYMENT OF SUBSISTENCE EXPENSES OF AN EMPLOYEE AND HIS IMMEDIATE FAMILY WHILE OCCUPYING TEMPORARY QUARTERS, WHEN THE EMPLOYEE IS TRANSFERRED TO A NEW OFFICIAL STATION. REIMBURSEMENT MAY BE ONLY FOR ACTUAL SUBSISTENCE EXPENSES INCURRED, PROVIDED THESE ARE INCIDENT TO OCCUPANCY OF TEMPORARY QUARTERS AND ARE REASONABLE.

THE DECISION OF OUR OFFICE PUBLISHED AT 52 COMP. GEN. 78 (1972) STATES THAT:

"*** WE HAVE ALLOWED REIMBURSEMENT FOR CHARGES FOR TEMPORARY QUARTERS AND SUBSISTENCE SUPPLIED BY RELATIVES WHERE THE CHARGES HAVE APPEARED REASONABLE: THAT IS, WHERE THEY HAVE BEEN CONSIDERABLY LESS THAN MOTEL OR RESTAURANT CHARGES. IT DOES NOT SEEM REASONABLE OR NECESSARY TO US FOR EMPLOYEES TO AGREE TO PAY RELATIVES THE SAME AMOUNTS THEY WOULD HAVE TO PAY FOR LODGING IN MOTELS OR MEALS IN RESTAURANTS OR TO BASE SUCH PAYMENTS TO RELATIVES UPON MAXIMUM AMOUNTS WHICH ARE REIMBURSABLE UNDER THE REGULATIONS. OF COURSE, WHAT IS REASONABLE DEPENDS ON THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF EACH CASE. THE NUMBER OF INDIVIDUALS INVOLVED, WHETHER THE RELATIVE HAD TO HIRE EXTRA HELP TO PROVIDE LODGING AND MEALS, THE EXTRA WORK PERFORMED BY THE RELATIVE AND POSSIBLY OTHER FACTORS WOULD BE FOR CONSIDERATION. ***"

WITH RESPECT TO MR. LIND'S CLAIM FOR REIMBURSEMENT FOR HIS MOTHER-IN LAW'S EXTRA WORK, 52 COMP. GEN. 78 (1972), AS CITED ABOVE, MAKES IT CLEAR THAT SUCH WORK IS MERELY ONE FACTOR TO BE CONSIDERED IN DETERMINING WHAT IS A REASONABLE CHARGE FOR MEALS AND LODGING. THE DECISION IN NO WAY SUGGESTS REIMBURSEMENT FOR EXTRA WORK AS A COMPLETELY SEPARATE EXPENSE. HAD MR. LIND INCLUDED SUCH ITEM IN HIS CLAIM FOR REIMBURSEMENT FOR RENT, THIS OFFICE WOULD HAVE NO DIFFICULTY IN CONSIDERING SUCH A CLAIM. HOWEVER, SINCE CONSIDERATION MUST BE LIMITED IN THIS REGARD TO CHARGES FOR MEALS AND LODGING, THE SEPARATE CLAIM FOR EXTRA WORK IS NOT REIMBURSABLE.

WITH RESPECT TO THE CLAIM FOR RENT, MR. LIND, IN A MEMORANDUM DATED JULY 12, 1974, TO HIS EMPLOYING AGENCY'S REGIONAL FINANCE OFFICER, EXPLAINS THE BASIS FOR HIS DETERMINATION OF SUCH ITEMS AS THE USE OF THE RELATIVE'S HOUSE, WHICH INCLUDED TWO ROOMS, A BATH, KITCHEN PRIVILEGES AND A YARD FOR HIS DAUGHTER. HE FURTHER STATES THAT HE "ESTIMATED THE INCREASE IN UTILITIES TO BE ABOUT $25, ADDED WHAT I CONSIDERED TO BE A REASONABLE AMOUNT OF RENT AND DECIDED ON A FIGURE OF $10 A DAY, INCLUDING ALL UTILITIES." ACCORDING TO THE RECORD, THIS AMOUNT CLAIMED IS LESS THAN THAT MAXIMUM ALLOWABLE UNDER SECTION 2-5.4C OF FPMR 101-7. HOWEVER, THE AGENCY DETERMINED THAT THE EXPENSES CLAIMED SOLELY FOR RENT WERE UNREASONABLE, AND IS WILLING TO ALLOW ONLY THE $25 CLAIMED FOR UTILITIES AND $75 FOR RENT.

IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE EMPLOYING AGENCY, IN THE FIRST INSTANCE, TO INSURE THAT SUCH EXPENSES ARE REASONABLE. SINCE THIS IS A QUESTION OF FACT, DEPENDING UPON THE PARTICULAR CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE CASE (SEE 52 COMP. GEN. 78 (1972)), THIS OFFICE SHOULD GIVE GREAT WEIGHT TO THE AGENCY'S DETERMINATION OF WHAT IS REASONABLE, INASMUCH AS IT IS MORE FAMILIAR WITH THE PARTICULAR SITUATION. WHILE THIS OFFICE HAS THE RIGHT AND DUTY TO REVIEW THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF EACH CASE SUBMITTED TO IT, AND MAKE AN INDEPENDENT DETERMINATION AS TO THE REASONABLENESS OF THE SUBSISTENCE EXPENSES CLAIMED, IN THE ABSENCE OF EVIDENCE INDICATING THE AGENCY'S DETERMINATION AS TO REASONABLENESS WAS CLEARLY ERRONEOUS, ARBITRARY OR CAPRICIOUS, THIS OFFICE WILL NOT SUBSTITUTE ITS JUDGMENT FOR THAT OF THE AGENCY.

THE RECORD IN THE PRESENT CASE LACKS A PROPER BASIS TO SUPPORT THE AGENCY'S DETERMINATION THAT THE AMOUNT OF RENT CLAIMED WAS UNREASONABLE. NO REASON IS STATED FOR REDUCING THE AMOUNT CLAIMED TO ONLY $75. IN A TELEPHONE CONVERSATION WITH THIS OFFICE ON SEPTEMBER 9, 1974, THE AUTHORIZED CERTIFYING OFFICER OF THE EMPLOYING AGENCY INDICATED THAT ALTHOUGH THE RENT CLAIMED WOULD PROBABLY BE LESS THAN MOTEL OR HOTEL RATES IN THE AREA, HE FELT THE CLAIM TO BE UNREASONABLE BECAUSE THE CLAIMANT LIVED WITH RELATIVES. WHILE SUCH A CONSIDERATION IS SIGNIFICANT, THE PENULTIMATE PARAGRAPH OF 52 COMP. GEN. 78 (1972) SUGGESTS THAT MORE OBJECTIVE FACTORS BE USED TO DETERMINE THE REASONABLENESS OF CLAIMS IN SUCH SITUATIONS. IN THIS RESPECT, THE AGENCY'S DETERMINATION OF REASONABLENESS AS TO THE RENT CLAIMED, IN THE ABSENCE OF FURTHER EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY, IS ARBITRARY IN THAT IT LACKS A PROPER BASIS. THEREFORE, THE AMOUNT CLAIMED FOR RENT SHOULD BE ALLOWED IN ITS ENTIRETY.

ACCORDINGLY, ACTION ON THE VOUCHER SHOULD BE TAKEN IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE FOREGOING.