B-236110, Jan 26, 1990

B-236110: Jan 26, 1990

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A federal agency may not pay for the travel costs of employees attending the funeral of a fellow employee since such travel is not official travel within the meaning of the travel laws and regulations. Agencies may only authorize travel which is necessary to accomplish the purposes of the Government effectively and economically. Officials of the DEA assert that travel of the type in question is necessary to accomplish the purposes of the government since it serves to improve employee relations and shows drug traffickers and users that DEA is committed to the drug war. We have long held. An agency may not reimburse its employees for expenses incurred to attend a funeral since attending a funeral is not normally considered official business within the meaning of the travel laws and regulations.

B-236110, Jan 26, 1990

CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Travel - Travel regulations - Applicability CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Travel - Travel expenses - Reimbursement - Official business - Determination DIGEST: The Drug Enforcement Administration may not reimburse its employees for the costs of attending the funeral of a fellow employee killed in the line of duty. In the absence of a statute expressly authorizing payment, a federal agency may not pay for the travel costs of employees attending the funeral of a fellow employee since such travel is not official travel within the meaning of the travel laws and regulations.

Drug Enforcement Administration-- Reimbursement of Travel Expenses:

An official of the Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), requests our opinion concerning whether the DEA improperly reimbursed employees for travel expenses incurred to attend the funeral of a fellow employee killed in the line of duty. For the following reasons, we conclude that DEA may not use appropriated funds for such a purpose.

BACKGROUND

In January 1987, officials of DEA's Atlanta Field Division authorized seventeen employees to travel, at government expense, from Atlanta to New York City to attend the funeral of Special Agent Raymond Stastny. Special Agent Stastn[ had been killed in the line of duty in Atlanta. After the funeral, the Deputy Chief Counsel for the DEA concluded that the officials in Atlanta had exceeded their authority by authorizing the travel. Based on that conclusion, the DEA instituted collection action against the employees to recover travel expenses that had been reimbursed by the government.

DISCUSSION

Federal agencies may reimburse employees for expenses incurred incident to official travel. 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5702 (1982). Under the Federal Travel Regulations, issued by the General Services Administration, agencies may only authorize travel which is necessary to accomplish the purposes of the Government effectively and economically. Federal Travel Regulations, para. 1-1.4(a) (Supp. 9, Feb. 29, 1984), incorp. by ref., 41 C.F.R. Sec. 101-7.003 (1989).

Officials of the DEA assert that travel of the type in question is necessary to accomplish the purposes of the government since it serves to improve employee relations and shows drug traffickers and users that DEA is committed to the drug war. We have long held, however, that unless a statute expressly authorizes payment, an agency may not reimburse its employees for expenses incurred to attend a funeral since attending a funeral is not normally considered official business within the meaning of the travel laws and regulations. B-199526, Feb. 23, 1981; B-166141, Feb. 27, 1969. Therefore, the DEA lacked authority to reimburse its employees for travel expenses incurred to attend Special Agent Stastn['s funeral. /1/

/1/ We note, however, that the erroneous payment of travel expenses to the employees may be considered for waiver under 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5584 (1988). Accordingly, requests for waiver may be filed in accordance with our procedures in 4 C.F.R. Parts 91-93 (1989).