B-215024, NOV 13, 1984

B-215024: Nov 13, 1984

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TRANSPORTATION - TRAVEL AGENCIES - USE APPROVED DIGEST: A PRIVATE CITIZEN WHO WAS ISSUED A TRAVEL ORDER BY THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION WAS NOT GIVEN A GOVERNMENT TRANSPORTATION REQUEST OR TOLD OF THE PROHIBITION AGAINST THE USE OF TRAVEL AGENTS. INADVERTENT USE OF A TRAVEL AGENCY BY ONE WHO DID NOT KNOW OF THE RESTRICTION FORMERLY CONTAINED IN GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS IS NOT A BAR TO REIMBURSEMENT OF TRAVEL AGENCY BY ONE WHO DID NOT KNOW OF THE RESTRICTION FORMERLY CONTAINED IN GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS IS NOT A BAR TO REIMBURSEMENT OF TRAVEL COSTS WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN PROPERLY CHARGED HAD REQUESTED SERVICE BEEN OBTAINED DIRECTLY FROM A CARRIER. SINCE SHE WAS NOT AWARE OF THE RULE AGAINST USING TRAVEL AGENTS.

B-215024, NOV 13, 1984

TRANSPORTATION - TRAVEL AGENCIES - USE APPROVED DIGEST: A PRIVATE CITIZEN WHO WAS ISSUED A TRAVEL ORDER BY THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION WAS NOT GIVEN A GOVERNMENT TRANSPORTATION REQUEST OR TOLD OF THE PROHIBITION AGAINST THE USE OF TRAVEL AGENTS. INADVERTENT USE OF A TRAVEL AGENCY BY ONE WHO DID NOT KNOW OF THE RESTRICTION FORMERLY CONTAINED IN GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS IS NOT A BAR TO REIMBURSEMENT OF TRAVEL AGENCY BY ONE WHO DID NOT KNOW OF THE RESTRICTION FORMERLY CONTAINED IN GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS IS NOT A BAR TO REIMBURSEMENT OF TRAVEL COSTS WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN PROPERLY CHARGED HAD REQUESTED SERVICE BEEN OBTAINED DIRECTLY FROM A CARRIER.

MARSHA WEISS:

IN FEBRUARY 1984, THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION ISSUED A TRAVEL ORDER TO MARSHA WEISS, A PRIVATE CITIZEN, FOR A TRIP FROM CHICAGO TO WASHINGTON, D.C. /1/ THE DEPARTMENT FAILED TO PROVIDE HER WITH A GOVERNMENT TRANSPORTATION REQUEST, AND FAILED TO MENTION THE PROHIBITION AGAINST PURCHASING PASSENGER TRANSPORTATION FROM A TRAVEL AGENT. MS. WEISS PURCHASED A ROUND-TRIP AIRLINE TICKET TO WASHINGTON, D.C., FROM A TRAVEL AGENT WITH HER OWN FUNDS. SINCE SHE WAS NOT AWARE OF THE RULE AGAINST USING TRAVEL AGENTS, SHE MAY BE REIMBURSED THE COST TO THE EXTENT IT DID NOT EXCEED THE COST WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN INCURRED HAD SHE PURCHASED THE TICKET FROM THE AIRLINE.

AT THE TIME OF MS. WEISS' TRIP, 4 C.F.R. SEC. 52.3 PROHIBITED THE USE OF TRAVEL AGENTS BY PASSENGERS TRAVELING WITHIN THE UNITED STATES AT THE EXPENSE OF THE GOVERNMENT. /2/ WE HAVE HELD, HOWEVER, THAT A GOVERNMENT TRAVELER WHO INADVERTENTLY PURCHASES TRANSPORTATION WITH PERSONAL FUNDS FROM A TRAVEL AGENCY MAY BE PAID THE TRAVEL COST WHICH WOULD HAVE BEEN PROPERLY CHARGEABLE HAD THE REQUESTED SERVICE BEEN OBTAINED DIRECTLY FROM THE CARRIER. 59 COMP.GEN. 433 (1980). THUS, IF A TRAVELER WAS UNAWARE OF THE GENERAL PROHIBITION AGAINST USING TRAVEL AGENTS AND INADVERTENTLY OBTAINED TICKETS THROUGH AN AGENT, REIMBURSEMENT IS AUTHORIZED.

MS. WEISS SATISFIED THESE REQUIREMENTS. SHE DID NOT, IN FACT, KNOW OF THE PROHIBITION AGAINST USING TRAVEL AGENTS AND HER VIOLATION OF THE PROHIBITION WAS INADVERTENT. MS. WEISS MAY THEREFORE BE REIMBURSED THE COST OF HER TICKET PROVIDED THAT IT WOULD NOT HAVE BEEN LESS EXPENSIVE TO HAVE OBTAINED THE TICKER FROM THE CARRIER DIRECTLY.

UNDER THE FEDERAL TRAVEL REGULATIONS THE TICKETS SHOULD HAVE BEEN PURCHASED FROM THE CARRIER WITH A GOVERNMENT TRANSPORTATION REQUEST. FTR PARA. 1-10.2. HAD THIS BEEN DONE A LOWER SPECIAL GOVERNMENT TRAVEL FARE WOULD APPARENTLY HAVE BEEN CHARGED. (THIS IS A RATE IN ADDITION TO THE CONTRACT CARRIER RATE WHICH WAS DETERMINED TO BE NOT AVAILABLE IN THIS CASE.) IN CASES WHERE AN EMPLOYEE HAS FAILED TO OBSERVE THE REQUIREMENTS OF THOSE REGULATIONS AND PURCHASED AIR TRAVEL TICKETS DIRECTLY WITHOUT USING A GOVERNMENT TRANSPORTATION REQUEST, REIMBURSEMENT HAD BEEN LIMITED TO THE COST OF THE LOWER SPECIAL GOVERNMENT FARE. HOWEVER, AN AGENCY MAY APPROVE PURCHASE OF TRANSPORTATION TICKETS WITH CASH INSTEAD OF A GOVERNMENT TRANSPORTATION REQUEST UNDER EMERGENCY CIRCUMSTANCES WHERE THE USE OF A GOVERNMENT TRANSPORTATION REQUEST IS NOT POSSIBLE. SEE FPMR TEMP.REG. G-47, APRIL 20, 1983, REVISING 41 C.F.R. SEC. 101-41.203-2, 41 C.F.R. CHAPTER 101, SUBCHAPTER G, APPENDIX. IF APPROVAL OF THE CASH PAYMENT UNDER THAT SECTION IS OBTAINED REIMBURSEMENT WOULD NOT BE LIMITED BY THE SPECIAL GOVERNMENT FARE. OTHERWISE, PAYMENT OF THIS VOUCHER SHOULD BE LIMITED TO THE SPECIAL GOVERNMENT FARE.

/1/ MS. WEISS, A MEMBER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS OFFICE OF STUDENT FINANCIAL AID, WAS INVITED TO WASHINGTON TO ATTEND THE PELL GRANT EXCHANGE TRAINING PROGRAM.

/2/ AT THE TIME OF MS. WEISS' TRIP, USE OF TRAVEL AGENTS FOR PURCHASING CARRIER TICKETS WAS PROHIBITED BY REGULATION. 4 C.F.R. SEC. 52.3 (1984). THAT PROHIBITION WAS RESCINDED ON APRIL 25, 1984, TO BE EFFECTIVE MAY 25, 1984. 49 FED.REG 17721 (1984).