Request for Relief From Liability

B-196804: Jul 1, 1980

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An employee of the Agency for International Development (AID) requested relief from liability of government funds that he lost while travelling on official business. GAO provided information regarding the authority and procedures available to AID in granting or denying the request. A question involved in the case was whether or not the employee occupied the status of an accountable officer of government funds at the time of the loss. The funds he was carrying represented travel expenses and per diem as well as certain operational funds. The entire amount was erroneously classified as a travel allowance. An employee who receives travel advancements is not considered an accountable officer for such funds inasmuch as these advances are in the nature of a loan as distinguished from government funds entrusted to an employee. However, GAO has recognized that an employee may be considered an accountable officer of government funds when the travel funds advanced greatly exceed the employee's travel expense requirements and the excess is supposed to be used for an operational purpose. GAO has the discretion to relieve an accountable officer of liability where an agency head determines that the loss occurred while the employee was discharging official duties and it occurred without fault or negligence on the part of the employee. For amounts not exceeding $500, the heads of departments can grant such relief under appropriate statutory criteria. Since the amount of funds involved is only $424, AID has authority to grant or deny relief of liability to the employee without reference to GAO, upon making the appropriate determinations.