B-220542.12, Aug 2, 1990, 69 Comp.Gen. 643

B-220542.12: Aug 2, 1990

Additional Materials:

Contact:

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

 

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

Since GSA regulations do not provide for a system in which the agency may return these materials to employees and employees have no property rights in the materials. Division of Finance Department of Health & Human Services Region VI: This letter is in response to your request for an opinion regarding the proper disposition of airline frequent flyer program accounts. Although some employees will receive flight awards from these accounts to be used for government travel. Other employees will be separated from the government before sufficient points can be accumulated for an award. Mileage points which are of an insufficient number for an award are nontransferable. Since the accounts of separated employees will never have any value to the government.

B-220542.12, Aug 2, 1990, 69 Comp.Gen. 643

CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Travel - Bonuses - Acceptance - Propriety The Department of Health and Human Services, Region VI, maintains airline frequent flyer accounts for its employees who travel on official government business. Since GSA regulations do not provide for a system in which the agency may return these materials to employees and employees have no property rights in the materials, the accounts may not be returned to employees upon separation or retirement even if the agency determines it has no use for the benefits.

Mr. J. R. Burkett

Director, Division of Finance

Department of Health & Human Services

Region VI:

This letter is in response to your request for an opinion regarding the proper disposition of airline frequent flyer program accounts, set up by HHS Region VI for employees who travel on official government business, upon separation of the employees from the government. For the reasons discussed below, the accounts may not be returned to employees upon separation or retirement.

You state that in an effort to utilize the frequent flyer programs offered by two major airlines, your Region established approximately 400 frequent flyer accounts for individuals traveling on official government business. Although some employees will receive flight awards from these accounts to be used for government travel, other employees will be separated from the government before sufficient points can be accumulated for an award. Mileage points which are of an insufficient number for an award are nontransferable. It also appears that the points carry expiration dates. Since the accounts of separated employees will never have any value to the government, you request an opinion regarding the proper disposition of these accounts.

The use and disposition of promotional materials received by employees in conjunction with government travel, such as mileage points accumulated in frequent flyer programs, are governed by General Services Administration (GSA) regulations contained in 41 C.F.R. Secs. 101-25.103-1 through 101- 25.103-4 (1988) and 41 C.F.R. Sec. 301-1.6(b) and (f) (1989). As is provided in these regulations, points accumulated in frequent flyer programs are the property of the United States and not the employee. See 41 C.F.R. Secs. 101-25.103-2(a) and 301-1.6(f)(1), and John D. McLaurin, 63 Comp.Gen. 233 (1984). See also Michael Farbman, et al., 67 Comp.Gen. 79 (1987), and decisions cited therein.

The regulations also provide that promotional materials should be integrated into agency travel plans to maximize the benefits to the government and should be applied to the maximum extent possible. See 41 C.F.R. Secs. 101-25.103-2(b) and 301-1.6(f)(3). We have held that an agency may not set up procedures to return airline frequent flyer benefits to an employee for personal use even if the agency determines that it is unable to use the benefits. See B-210717.2, Feb. 24, 1984. See also 63 Comp.Gen. 229, 232 (1984). These decisions are based on the fact that the GSA regulations, cited above, do not provide for a system in which the agency may return these materials to the employee who received them on behalf of the government.

Accordingly, absent any provision therefor in the GSA regulations, we see no basis on which the frequent flyer accounts in question may be returned to the employees upon separation from the government. However, after an employee separates or retires, we believe it would be appropriate for your office to determine whether the frequent flyer account in that employee's name has any value to the government and, if you determine that the account has no future value, close out the account at that time.