B-184747, JULY 2, 1976, 55 COMP.GEN. 1241

B-184747: Jul 2, 1976

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SUBSISTENCE - PER DIEM - REDUCTION - GROUND ACCOMMODATIONS PACKAGE - AIR TRAVEL EMPLOYEE OF NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION WHOSE PER DIEM WAS REDUCED BY 55 PERCENT AS HE PURCHASED GROUND ACCOMMODATIONS PACKAGE IN CONJUNCTION WITH AIRLINE TICKET MAY BE REIMBURSED FULL LONDON PER DIEM. RULE IS THAT TRAVEL ORDERS MAY NOT BE RETROACTIVELY CHANGED TO INCREASE OR DECREASE ENTITLEMENTS AFTER TRAVEL HAS BEEN PERFORMED. TRAVEL EXPENSES - AIR TRAVEL - EXCURSION RATES - GROUND ACCOMMODATIONS PACKAGE EMPLOYEE OF NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION TRAVELING ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS MAY NOT BE REIMBURSED FOR DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COST OF EXCURSION FARE AND LESSER FARE ACTUALLY USED WHICH WAS OBTAINED BY PURCHASING GROUND ACCOMMODATIONS PACKAGE.

B-184747, JULY 2, 1976, 55 COMP.GEN. 1241

SUBSISTENCE - PER DIEM - REDUCTION - GROUND ACCOMMODATIONS PACKAGE - AIR TRAVEL EMPLOYEE OF NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION WHOSE PER DIEM WAS REDUCED BY 55 PERCENT AS HE PURCHASED GROUND ACCOMMODATIONS PACKAGE IN CONJUNCTION WITH AIRLINE TICKET MAY BE REIMBURSED FULL LONDON PER DIEM. RULE IS THAT TRAVEL ORDERS MAY NOT BE RETROACTIVELY CHANGED TO INCREASE OR DECREASE ENTITLEMENTS AFTER TRAVEL HAS BEEN PERFORMED. TRAVEL EXPENSES - AIR TRAVEL - EXCURSION RATES - GROUND ACCOMMODATIONS PACKAGE EMPLOYEE OF NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION TRAVELING ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS MAY NOT BE REIMBURSED FOR DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COST OF EXCURSION FARE AND LESSER FARE ACTUALLY USED WHICH WAS OBTAINED BY PURCHASING GROUND ACCOMMODATIONS PACKAGE, AS EMPLOYEE RECEIVED PER DIEM TO COVER LODGING COSTS. PAYMENT TO EMPLOYEE OF EXCURSION FARE WOULD HAVE EFFECT OF DOUBLE REIMBURSEMENT FOR LODGING COST. 54 COMP.GEN. 268 DISTINGUISHED.

IN THE MATTER OF DR. SIGMUND FRITZ-- REIMBURSEMENT OF TRAVEL EXPENSES, JULY 2, 1976:

MS. HELEM R. MACHIN, AN AUTHORIZED CERTIFYING OFFICER WITH THE NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION (NOAA), DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE, REQUESTS AN ADVANCE DECISION ON THE PROPRIETY OF PAYING THE RECLAIM OF DR. SIGMUND FRITZ FOR PER DIEM AND LAND TRAVEL ARRANGEMENT INCURRED INCIDENT TO TRAVEL ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS.

THE RECORD SHOWS THAT DR. FRITZ WAS ISSUED TRAVEL ORDER NO. 20-5-A5A 1856, DATED APRIL 22, 1975, FOR TRAVEL ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS FROM WASHINGTON, D.C., TO LONDON, BRACKNELL, AND OXFORD, ENGLAND, AND RETURN. THE TRAVEL ORDER AUTHORIZED TRAVEL EXPENSES, LONDON PER DIEM RATE, AND SPECIAL EXPENSES. DR. FRITZ PURCHASED AN AIRLINE TICKET AT A REDUCED FARE. ELIGIBILITY FOR THE REDUCED FARE WAS PREDICTED UPON THE PURCHASE OF A LAND ACCOMMODATIONS PACKAGE WHICH INCLUDED HOTEL ROOM AND BREAKFAST, INTER ALIA.

IN HIS TRAVEL VOUCHER DR. FRITZ CLAIMED REIMBURSEMENT FOR THE REDUCED AIR FARE OF $402.68, PLUS LONDON PER DIEM AND OTHER ALLOWABLE EXPENSES AMOUNTING TO $666.20, FOR A TOTAL OF $1,068.88. THE NOAA ALLOWED DR. FRITZ THE COST OF THE REDUCED AIR FARE. IN ADDITION, IT ALLOWED DR. FRITZ $170 FOR THE COST OF THE ACCOMMODATIONS PACKAGE PURCHASED IN CONNECTION WITH HIS REDUCED AIR FARE. HOWEVER, NOAA ALLOWED ONLY 55 PERCENT OF LONDON PER DIEM AS THE ACCOMMODATIONS PACKAGE INCLUDED HOTEL AND BREAKFAST.

IN HIS RECLAIM DR. FRITZ REQUESTS REIMBURSEMENT OF FULL LONDON PER DIEM PLUS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE REGULAR EXCURSION FARE ($542) AND THE REDUCED FARE ($402.68) CITING OUR DECISION 54 COMP.GEN. 268 (1974).

WE FIRST CONSIDER THE CLAIM FOR FULL LONDON PER DIEM RATE. WE NOTE THAT TRAVEL ORDER NO. 20-;-A5A-1856, DATED APRIL 22, 1975, AUTHORIZED PER DIEM AT THE ESTABLISHED LONDON RATE. WHEN DR. FRITZ SUBMITTED HIS TRAVEL VOUCHER, THE PER DIEM RATE WAS REDUCED BY 55 PERCENT AND PAYMENT FOR THE ACCOMMODATIONS PACKAGE SUBSTITUTED IN LIEU THEREOF. THE RULE REGARDING RETROACTIVE MODIFICATION OR AMENDMENT OF TRAVEL ORDERS IS THAT UNDER ORDERS ENTITLING AN OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE TO TRAVEL ALLOWANCES, A LEGAL RIGHT TO SUCH ALLOWANCES VESTS IN THE TRAVELER AT AND WHEN THE TRAVEL IS PERFORMED. IT MAY NOT BE DIVESTED OR MODIFIED RETROACTIVELY SO AS TO INCREASE OR DECREASE THE RIGHT WHICH HAS ACCRUED. IN OTHER WORDS, SUCH A RIGHT BECOMES FIXED UNDER THE APPLICABLE STATUTES, REGULATIONS, AND ORDERS FOR TRAVEL ALREADY PERFORMED. THE ONLY EXCEPTION TO THIS RULE IS IN THE CASE OF ERRORS WHEN ORDERS MAY BE CORRECTED OR COMPLETED RETROACTIVELY TO SHOW THE ORIGINAL INTENT. 23 COMP.GEN. 713 (1944), 48 ID. 119 (1968), B-174428, APRIL 17, 1972.

ACCORDINGLY, DR. FRITZ' CLAIM FOR FULL LONDON PER DIEM MAY BE ALLOWED, IF OTHERWISE CORRECT.

WE NOW CONSIDER THE CLAIM FOR THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE EXCURSION FARE ($542) AND THE REDUCED AIR FARE ($402.68) AMOUNTING TO $139.92. THE RECORD SHOWS THAT DR. FRITZ PAID $402.68 FOR A REDUCED FARE. IN ORDER TO GET THIS REDUCED FARE HE HAD TO PURCHASE A LAND ARRANGEMENT FOR $170 OR A TOTAL PACKAGE OF $572.68.

IN 54 COMP.GEN. 268, SUPRA, WE CONSIDERED THE CLAIMS OF TWO EMPLOYEES OF THE INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE WHO HAD ARRANGED A VACATION WHILE EN ROUTE TO THEIR TEMPORARY DUTY ASSIGNMENTS. IN THAT CASE THE EMPLOYEES HAD INDIRECTLY ROUTED THEIR TRAVEL THROUGH COLORADO IN ORDER TO TAKE ANNUAL LEAVE THERE. WHILE THE REGULAR AIR FARE FOR DIRECT TRAVEL FROM DETROIT TO FRESNO TO SAN FRANCISCO TO DETROIT WAS $320.92 EACH, THE EMPLOYEES HAD OBTAINED A SPECIAL "TOUR-BASING" FARE OF $228.15 EACH. IN ORDER TO OBTAIN THE TOUR-BASING FARE THEY HAD BEEN REQUIRED TO PURCHASE A MINIMUM OF $65 IN ACCOMMODATIONS. THE QUESTION PRESENTED WAS WHETHER THE CLAIMANTS COULD BE REIMBURSED THE $65 AMOUNT PAID FOR ACCOMMODATIONS INASMUCH AS THAT AMOUNT COMBINED WITH THE TOUR BASING FARE OF $228.15 DID NOT EXCEED THE REGULAR ECONOMY FARE. WE HELD THAT THE $65 CHARGE WAS AN ALLOWABLE ADDITIONAL AIR FARE EXPENSE RATHER THAN A SUBSISTENCE EXPENSE INASMUCH AS THE EMPLOYEES' USE OF THE ACCOMMODATIONS QUALIFIED THEM FOR THE LESSER TOUR-BASING FARE AND RESULTED IN NO ADDITIONAL EXPENSE TO THE GOVERNMENT.

IN LIGHT OF THAT DECISION DR. FRITZ CLAIMS REIMBURSEMENT FOR THE COST OF THE REDUCED AIR FARE PLUS THE COST OF THE LAND ARRANGEMENTS ($572.68) NOT TO EXCEED THE COST OF THE REGULAR EXCURSION FARE ($542). HOWEVER, THE SITUATION IN DR. FRITZ' CASE IS DIFFERENT FROM THE FACTS STATED ABOVE IN 54 COMP.GEN. 268, SUPRA, IN THAT DR. FRITZ IS BEING REIMBURSED FOR HIS LAND ARRANGEMENTS BY RECEIVING FULL LONDON PER DIEM. THE EMPLOYEES IN 54 COMP.GEN. 268, SUPRA, WERE NOT TRAVELING ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS WHILE IN COLORADO AND RECEIVED NO PER DIEM DURING THE TIME PERIOD COVERED BY THE GROUND ACCOMMODATIONS PACKAGE. WERE DR. FRITZ TO BE PAID FOR THE COST OF THE REGULAR EXCURSION FARE, HE WOULD IN EFFECT BE REIMBURSED TWICE FOR THE COST OF HIS GROUND ACCOMMODATIONS.

THE FEDERAL TRAVEL REGULATIONS (FPMR 101-7), PARAGRAPH 1-3.4B(1) (MAY 1973), REQUIRE THAT EMPLOYEES USE SPECIAL OR REDUCED FARES WHEN IT CAN BE DETERMINED IN ADVANCE THAT SUCH TRAVEL IS BENEFICIAL TO THE GOVERNMENT. WHILE THE PAYMENT OF THE "TOUR-BASING" FARE OF $228.15 PLUS AN ACCOMMODATIONS PACKAGE OF $65 IN 54 COMP.GEN. 268, SUPRA, REPRESENTED A SAVING OF $27.77 TO THE GOVERNMENT OVER THE COST OF THE $320.92 FARE FOR DIRECT TRAVEL, THE PAYMENT OF DR. FRITZ' CLAIM, AS PRESENTED, WOULD REPRESENT AN ADDITIONAL EXPENSE TO THE GOVERNMENT.

ACCORDINGLY, DR. FRITZ IS ENTITLED TO FULL PER DIEM WHILE IN LONDON PLUS THE ACTUAL COST OF HIS AIR FARE, NAMELY $402.68. ACTION ON THE CLAIM SHOULD BE TAKEN IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE FOREGOING.