B-194858, AUGUST 7, 1979, 58 COMP.GEN. 710

B-194858: Aug 7, 1979

Additional Materials:

Contact:

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

 

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

SINCE TRAVELER WAS NOT AWARE OF THE REGULATION WHICH PRECLUDES USE OF TRAVEL AGENCIES HE MAY BE REIMBURSED AN AMOUNT NOT EXCEEDING THE COST OF THE TRANSPORTATION IF IT HAD BEEN PURCHASED DIRECTLY FROM THE CARRIER. IT IS THE POLICY OF THE GOVERNMENT TO INSURE ITS OWN RISKS OF LOSS. TRIP CANCELLATION INSURANCE IS NOT A REIMBURSABLE TRAVEL EXPENSE UNLESS IT CAN BE SHOWN THAT THE INSURANCE IS AN INSEPARABLE PART OF A TRAVEL PACKAGE WHICH PROVIDES SPECIAL OR REDUCED FARES AT A SAVINGS TO THE GOVERNMENT. SUBSISTENCE - PER DIEM - DELAYS - AWAITING TRANSPORTATION EXCURSION RATES FOR PURPOSES OF QUALIFYING FOR PER DIEM A MEMBER OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES MAY BE CONSIDERED TO BE IN A TRAVEL STATUS FOR THE EXTRA TIME REQUIRED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF A REDUCED AIR FARE IF IT CAN BE SHOWN THAT THE INCREASED TRAVEL TIME WILL NOT INTERFERE WITH THE PERFORMANCE OF OFFICIAL BUSINESS.

B-194858, AUGUST 7, 1979, 58 COMP.GEN. 710

TRANSPORTATION - TRAVEL AGENCIES - RESTRICTION ON USE A MEMBER OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES, TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF A LOW COST CHARTER FLIGHT, PURCHASED TRANSPORTATION FOR OFFICIAL TRAVEL WITH PERSONAL FUNDS FROM A TRAVEL AGENCY. SINCE TRAVELER WAS NOT AWARE OF THE REGULATION WHICH PRECLUDES USE OF TRAVEL AGENCIES HE MAY BE REIMBURSED AN AMOUNT NOT EXCEEDING THE COST OF THE TRANSPORTATION IF IT HAD BEEN PURCHASED DIRECTLY FROM THE CARRIER. INSURANCE - TRIP CANCELLATION INSURANCE - TRAVEL EXPENSE A MEMBER OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES PURCHASED TRIP CANCELLATION INSURANCE WHEN HE PURCHASED CHARTER FLIGHT ACCOMMODATIONS. IT IS THE POLICY OF THE GOVERNMENT TO INSURE ITS OWN RISKS OF LOSS. TRIP CANCELLATION INSURANCE IS NOT A REIMBURSABLE TRAVEL EXPENSE UNLESS IT CAN BE SHOWN THAT THE INSURANCE IS AN INSEPARABLE PART OF A TRAVEL PACKAGE WHICH PROVIDES SPECIAL OR REDUCED FARES AT A SAVINGS TO THE GOVERNMENT. SUBSISTENCE - PER DIEM - DELAYS - AWAITING TRANSPORTATION EXCURSION RATES FOR PURPOSES OF QUALIFYING FOR PER DIEM A MEMBER OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES MAY BE CONSIDERED TO BE IN A TRAVEL STATUS FOR THE EXTRA TIME REQUIRED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF A REDUCED AIR FARE IF IT CAN BE SHOWN THAT THE INCREASED TRAVEL TIME WILL NOT INTERFERE WITH THE PERFORMANCE OF OFFICIAL BUSINESS, IS NOT FOR PERSONAL CONVENIENCE, AND THE COST OF THE EXTRA PER DIEM WHEN ADDED TO THE COST OF THE REDUCED FARE DOES NOT EXCEED WHAT THE GOVERNMENT WOULD HAVE BEEN REQUIRED TO PAY HAD THE REDUCED FARE NOT BEEN USED.

IN THE MATTER OF DR. KENNETH J. BART, USPHS, AUGUST 7, 1979:

THREE ISSUES ARE PRESENTED IN THIS CASE. THEY ARE 1) WHETHER A MEMBER OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES MAY BE REIMBURSED TRAVEL EXPENSES PURCHASED THROUGH A TRAVEL AGENCY IN VIEW OF THE PROHIBITION CONTAINED IN PARAGRAPH M2200-3 OF VOLUME 1, JOINT TRAVEL REGULATIONS (1 JTR); 2) WHETHER A MEMBER OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES MAY BE REIMBURSED FOR TRIP CANCELLATION INSURANCE PURCHASED BY HIM; AND 3) WHETHER A MEMBER OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES MAY BE PAID PER DIEM FOR AN ADDITIONAL DAY OF TRAVEL REQUIRED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF A REDUCED FARE PROVIDED BY A CHARTER FLIGHT.

QUESTIONS ONE AND THREE ARE ANSWERED IN THE AFFIRMATIVE. QUESTION TWO IS ANSWERED IN THE NEGATIVE.

THE ISSUES ARISE FROM A REQUEST BY THE DIRECTOR, FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT OFFICE, PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE, CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL, ATLANTA, GEORGIA, REGARDING REIMBURSEMENT TO DR. KENNETH J. BART FOR THE PAYMENT OF $365 TO A TRAVEL AGENCY FOR AIR FARE, $15 PAID FOR TRIP CANCELLATION INSURANCE AND THE CLAIM OF $45 FOR AN EXTRA DAY OF PER DIEM INCIDENT TO A TRIP HE TOOK TO ROME, ITALY.

DR. BART, A COMMISSIONED OFFICER OF THE UNITED STATES PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE (PHS), WAS AUTHORIZED TO TRAVEL ON TEMPORARY DUTY FROM ATLANTA, GEORGIA, TO ROME, ITALY, AND RETURN IN AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER 1978. TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF A CHARTER FLIGHT BY CAPITAL AIRWAYS (UNITED STATES REGISTRY) DR. BART, WHO WAS UNAWARE OF THE GOVERNMENT'S GENERAL PROHIBITION AGAINST THE USE OF TRAVEL AGENCIES, PAID TO A TRAVEL AGENCY FROM HIS PERSONAL FUNDS THE SUM OF $365 PLUS $15 FOR TRIP CANCELLATION INSURANCE. THE CHARTER FLIGHT WAS FROM NEW YORK, NEW YORK, TO ROME, ITALY, AND RETURN. IT WAS THEREFORE NECESSARY FOR HIM TO PURCHASE A ROUND-TRIP FARE FROM ATLANTA TO NEW YORK WHICH COST $116 (EXCURSION FARE). UPON THE RETURN FROM ROME, THE CHARTER FLIGHT ARRIVED TOO LATE FOR DR. BART TO TAKE A FLIGHT TO ATLANTA THE SAME DAY AS HIS RETURN. THIS DELAY NECESSITATED HIS REMAINING IN NEW YORK OVERNIGHT AND RETURNING TO ATLANTA THE NEXT DAY. HAD DR. BART TAKEN A REGULAR FARE FLIGHT FROM ATLANTA TO ROME AND RETURN, THE COST TO THE GOVERNMENT WOULD HAVE BEEN $1,131. BY USE OF AN EXCURSION FARE (14-21 DAYS) THE COST COULD HAVE BEEN REDUCED TO $850 FOR THE ROUND TRIP. THUS, BY TAKING THE CHARTER FLIGHT DR. BART'S AIR FARE FROM NEW YORK TO ROME WAS SUBSTANTIALLY LESS THAN IT WOULD HAVE BEEN OTHERWISE.

AS A COMMISSIONED OFFICER OF THE PHS, DR. BART'S TRAVEL ALLOWANCES FOR TEMPORARY DUTY ARE GOVERNED BY 37 U.S.C. 404(1976) AND BY THE IMPLEMENTING REGULATIONS OF 1 JTR. PARAGRAPH M2200-3 (CHANGE 276, FEBRUARY 1, 1976) PROVIDES THAT TRAVEL AGENCIES MAY NOT BE USED TO SECURE ANY PASSENGER TRANSPORTATION SERVICE FROM THE UNITED STATES TO FOREIGN COUNTRIES. HOWEVER, IN DECISION B-103315, AUGUST 1, 1978, WE HELD THAT MEMBERS OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES WHO INADVERTENTLY PURCHASE OFFICIAL TRANSPORTATION WITH PERSONAL FUNDS FROM A TRAVEL AGENCY WITHOUT PRIOR APPROVAL BY AN ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE MAY BE REIMBURSED AN AMOUNT NOT EXCEEDING THE COST OF TRANSPORTATION IF IT HAD BEEN PURCHASED DIRECTLY FROM THE CARRIER. THAT DECISION WE ALSO STATED THAT TO ACHIEVE MORE UNIFORMITY IN REGULATIONS RELATING TO TRAVEL, 1 JTR COULD BE AMENDED TO PERMIT PROCUREMENT OF PASSENGER TRANSPORTATION BY GROUP OR CHARTER ARRANGEMENTS FROM TRAVEL AGENCIES FOR TRAVEL BY MEMBERS OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES TO THE EXTENT ALLOWED CIVILIAN EMPLOYEES IN THE FEDERAL TRAVEL REGULATIONS (FPMR 101-7) PAR. 1 3.4B(2).

THE NONUSE OF TRAVEL AGENCIES IS PREMISED ON THE DETERMINATION THAT PROCUREMENT DIRECTLY FROM THE CARRIERS IS MORE EFFICIENT AND ECONOMICAL THAN PURCHASES FROM THE TRAVEL AGENCIES. FLIGHT RESERVATIONS MUST GENERALLY BE MADE AND CONFIRMED WITH THE AIRLINES AND ANY CANCELLATIONS OR CHANGES IN FLIGHT PLANS CAN BE EFFECTED MORE READILY AND WITH LESS LIKELIHOOD OF ERROR BY DEALING DIRECTLY WITH THE CARRIERS.

AS DR. BART'S USE OF THE TRAVEL AGENCY WAS INADVERTENT, HIS CASE FALLS WITHIN THE EXCEPTION NOTED IN B-103315. THEREFORE, NOTWITHSTANDING THE FACT THAT THE JTRS HAD NOT BEEN AMENDED AS APPROVED IN THAT DECISION AT THE TIME DR. BART TRAVELED, HE SHOULD BE REIMBURSED AN AMOUNT NOT EXCEEDING COST OF TRANSPORTATION IF PURCHASE WAS MADE DIRECTLY FROM AN AIRLINE CARRIER. SEE IN THIS REGARD 1 JTR, PARAS. M4251, M4159-1 AND 4, M4150-4. SINCE THE $365 AIR FARE WAS LOWER THAN THE GOVERNMENT WOULD HAVE OTHERWISE PAID, HE MAY BE REIMBURSED THAT AMOUNT.

IT IS THE GENERAL RULE THAT TRIP INSURANCE IS NOT A REIMBURSABLE ITEM OF TRAVEL EXPENSE. IT IS A LONGSTANDING POLICY OF GOVERNMENT TO SELF-INSURE ITS OWN RISKS OF LOSS. SEE B-127343, DECEMBER 15, 1976, AND CASES CITED THERE. A LIMITED EXCEPTION TO THIS RULE HAS BEEN APPLIED WHEN THE INSURANCE IS AN INSEPARABLE PART OF THE CONTRACT. SEE 55 COMP.GEN 1387(1976) CONCERNING INSURANCE REQUIRED IN A RENTAL CAR CONTRACT. HOWEVER, IN THE PRESENT CASE IT APPEARS THAT THE TRIP CANCELLATION INSURANCE WAS OPTIONAL AND, THEREFORE, REIMBURSEMENT FOR IT MAY NOT BE ALLOWED.

AN EXTRA DAY'S PER DIEM IS CLAIMED DUE TO SCHEDULING REQUIREMENTS OF THE CHARTER FLIGHT. TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE CHARTER FLIGHT IT WAS NECESSARY FOR DR. BART TO STOP OVER IN NEW YORK CITY UPON HIS RETURN FROM ROME SINCE THE CHARTER FLIGHT ARRIVED TOO LATE IN THE EVENING FOR HIM TO MAKE A CONNECTING FLIGHT TO ATLANTA. PARAGRAPH M3050, 1 JTR, PROVIDES THAT MEMBERS SHALL BE DEEMED TO BE IN A TRAVEL STATUS WHILE PERFORMING TRAVEL AWAY FROM THEIR PERMANENT DUTY STATION, UPON PUBLIC BUSINESS, PURSUANT TO COMPETENT TRAVEL ORDERS, INCLUDING NECESSARY DELAYS EN ROUTE INCIDENT TO MODE OF TRAVEL. PER DIEM IS AUTHORIZED FOR PERIODS OF TEMPORARY DUTY INCLUDING PERIODS OF NECESSARY DELAY AWAITING FURTHER TRANSPORTATION. JTR, PARA. M4200-1.

THE TRAVEL TIME REQUIRED TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF SPECIAL OR REDUCED FARES SHOULD ALSO BE VIEWED IN LIGHT OF THE SAVINGS TO THE GOVERNMENT. IF IT CAN BE SHOWN THAT THE INCREASED TRAVEL TIME WILL NOT INTERFERE WITH THE PERFORMANCE OF OFFICIAL BUSINESS, IS NOT SOLELY FOR PERSONAL CONVENIENCE, AND THE COST OF THE EXTRA PER DIEM WHEN ADDED TO THE COST OF THE SPECIAL OR REDUCED FARES DOES NOT EXCEED WHAT THE GOVERNMENT WOULD HAVE BEEN REQUIRED TO PAY HAD THE SPECIAL OR REDUCED FARES NOT BEEN USED, THE MEMBER SHOULD BE CONSIDERED TO BE IN A TRAVEL STATUS FROM THE REQUIRED EXTRA TIME. IN THIS CASE THE EXTRA TRAVEL TIME APPEARS TO SATISFY THOSE CRITERIA. THEREFORE, PAYMENT OF PER DIEM FOR THE EXTRA DAY SHOULD BE ALLOWED.

ACCORDINGLY, THE VOUCHER SUBMITTED IS BEING RETURNED FOR PAYMENT, IF OTHERWISE CORRECT, IN ACCORDANCE WITH THIS DECISION (EXCLUDING THE TRIP INSURANCE).