B-234825, Mar 6, 1990

B-234825: Mar 6, 1990

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Travel is to be performed "as soon as possible. Such delay is not reasonable. His entitlements have expired. Richard Lord - Intergovernmental Personnel Act - Return Travel and Transportation - Time Limitation: This decision is in response to a request from Thomas C. The issue is whether a state employee assigned to a federal agency under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) may be reimbursed for return travel and transportation following satisfactory completion of his IPA assignments when the travel has been delayed for more than 6 years. His household goods were shipped from Logan. He was transferred to DOL where he remained for the last several months of that agreement period and served additional 1-year assignment periods under agreement with DOL.

B-234825, Mar 6, 1990

CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Relocation - Relocation travel - Eligibility - Time Restriction CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Relocation - Personnel - IPA - Return travel - Eligibility DIGEST: A state government employee, who performed several consecutive 1 year assignments with the federal government in Washington, D.C., under Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) agreements, completed his last assignment in July 1983. He did not perform authorized return travel and transportation at that time and now seeks clarification of his current travel entitlements. Under the Federal Travel Regulations, travel is to be performed "as soon as possible," with reasonable delays permitted. Since the individual made no effort to perform return travel in 1983 and instead accepted other non-IPA jobs in Washington, D.C., for more than 5 years before he inquired as to his travel reimbursement rights, such delay is not reasonable. Hence, any travel that he might perform may not be considered as incident to termination of his last IPA assignment, and his entitlements have expired.

Richard Lord - Intergovernmental Personnel Act - Return Travel and Transportation - Time Limitation:

This decision is in response to a request from Thomas C. Komarek, Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management, Department of Labor (DOL). The issue is whether a state employee assigned to a federal agency under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) may be reimbursed for return travel and transportation following satisfactory completion of his IPA assignments when the travel has been delayed for more than 6 years. For the following reasons, we conclude that IPA return travel and transportation must be performed within a reasonable time following completion of an IPA assignment in order to be reimbursable.

BACKGROUND

Mr. Richard Lord, an employee of the government of the State of Utah, initially served under a Department of Defense IPA agreement for two consecutive 1-year assignments from October 1979 to October 1981. His household goods were shipped from Logan, Utah, to Washington, D.C., at government expense in lieu of per diem.

After serving approximately 10 months of the second 1-year assignment, he was transferred to DOL where he remained for the last several months of that agreement period and served additional 1-year assignment periods under agreement with DOL. His IPA agreements with DOL and DOD provided for return travel and transportation expenses to Logan, Utah, upon completion of his IPA assignment. He satisfactorily completed his last assignment under the IPA in July 1983. However, Mr. Lord did not return home at that time. In fact, he has remained in the Washington, D.C. area for over 6 years and has performed temporary employment with other federal agencies on, at least, four occasions.

Since Mr. Lord has not returned to Utah, the question asked is whether he may be reimbursed for his and his family's travel and transportation should he now decide to return there. The Assistant Secretary of Labor expresses the view that, based on general principles of reasonableness and timeliness, such rights as Mr. Lord had under his IPA agreement with DOL have been exhausted by the passage of time.

OPINION

The statutory authority providing for temporary assignments of personnel between federal agencies, and state and local governments under the IPA is found in 5 U.S.C. Sec. 3371 et seq. Section 3375(a)(1) thereof which authorizes travel and transportation expense reimbursement subject to regulations (5 U.S.C. Sec. 3376), provides in part:

"(1) subchapter I of chapter 57 of this title, for the expense of -

"(A) travel, including a per diem allowance, to and from the assignment location;

"(2) section 5724 of this title, for the expense of transportation of his immediate family and his household goods and personal effects to and from the assignment location; .... "

The regulations prescribed by section 3376 are contained in 5 C.F.R. Part 334; Chapter 334, Federal Personnel Manual, /1/ and by reference in each of subsections 3375(a)(2) through 3375(a)(6), the provisions of chapter 2 of the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR).

There is nothing in the law governing the IPA establishing the time within which an individual on an IPA assignment with the federal government must act following completion of that assignment in order to remain eligible for return travel at government expense. However, FTR, para. 2-1.5a(2), provides in part:

"(2) Time limits for beginning travel and transportation. All travel, including that for the immediate family, and transportation, including that for household goods allowed under these regulations, shall be accomplished as soon as possible. The maximum time for beginning allowable travel and transportation shall not exceed 2 years from the effective date of the employee's transfer. ...."

The focus of the above-quoted provision is timeliness and a 2-year period is designated as the maximum time permitted to accomplish authorized travel and transportation. Similar language is used in connection with overseas return travel. We have long held that, in order for an employee's return travel and transportation following separation from an overseas assignment to be deemed incident to that assignment for reimbursement purposes, it must be commenced within a reasonable time. Consuelo K. Wassink, 62 Comp.Gen. 200 (1983), and decisions cited.

In the present case, there is nothing to show that Mr. Lord intended to return to Logan, Utah, at the conclusion of his IPA assignment, nor that he made any effort to do so. The fact that he delayed more than 5 years before he even made inquiry as to his return travel entitlements supports the view that his delay was so unreasonable that any travel and transportation that he might now perform may not be deemed incident to the 1983 termination of his IPA assignment.

Accordingly, we conclude that Mr. Lord's return travel and transportation entitlements have expired.

/1/ Incorp. by ref. 41 C.F.R. Sec. 101-7.003 (1983).