B-238093, Aug 28, 1990

B-238093: Aug 28, 1990

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May be reimbursed cost of noncommercial lodging provided by a stranger in his home provided the employee shows that the costs were paid and the agency determines that such costs were reasonable under the circumstances. Prohibiting reimbursement of lodging expenses when an employee obtains lodging from friends or relatives is not applicable to this claim. Avery: The issue presented is whether the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA). Avery was an inexperienced traveler. He was paying for his expenses on a cash. He noticed that he was running short of cash. Slept that night in the rental vehicle he was using on his temporary duty assignment. He was requested to remain on temporary duty for an additional 7 days to finish the job.

B-238093, Aug 28, 1990

CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Travel - Lodging - Expenses - Noncommercial lodging DIGEST: Civilian employee of Department of Defense, on temporary duty, may be reimbursed cost of noncommercial lodging provided by a stranger in his home provided the employee shows that the costs were paid and the agency determines that such costs were reasonable under the circumstances. The applicable regulation, C4552-2n, Joint Travel Regulations, Vol. 2, prohibiting reimbursement of lodging expenses when an employee obtains lodging from friends or relatives is not applicable to this claim.

James W. Avery:

The issue presented is whether the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), Department of Defense (DOD), may reimburse Mr. James W. Avery, a civilian crane operator on temporary duty in March and April 1989, for the cost of noncommercial lodging during the period April 7-14, 1989.

Mr. Avery was an inexperienced traveler. He was paying for his expenses on a cash, pay-as-you-go basis, without any credit cards. After performing 11 days of temporary duty, he noticed that he was running short of cash. In order to conserve his funds, Mr. Avery checked out of his motel on Thursday, April 6, 1989, and slept that night in the rental vehicle he was using on his temporary duty assignment. During the day on Thursday, he was requested to remain on temporary duty for an additional 7 days to finish the job. Mr. Avery agreed to the extension but informed the local agency official that he needed additional funds immediately. The official agreed to obtain the travel advance for him and later informed Mr. Avery that all preparations had been made and that the funds would be at the local DLA office prior to the close of business on Friday, April 7. However, when Mr. Avery inquired about the advance at about 3:00 p.m. on Friday, he was informed that the cash advance was not there and that the local official had left the office early on leave.

On that Friday night, while eating in a restaurant, Mr. Avery was discussing his situation with a stranger, Milton Nelson, and informed Mr. Nelson that he had no money for food and lodging and that he planned to sleep in the rental vehicle over the weekend. Mr. Nelson told Mr. Avery that he could stay as a guest in his home for $45 a day for room and board. Mr. Avery accepted the offer and promised to pay Mr. Nelson when he received his cash advance. Mr. Avery received his cash advance on Wednesday, April 12. In a letter dated July 5, 1989, Mr. Nelson states that Mr. Avery was a guest in his home from April 7 through 14, 1989, and that Mr. Avery paid him a total of $315 for his room and board.

Upon submission of his travel voucher, the claim for lodging expenses was disallowed and the claimant was required to pay back $274.87 of his travel advance. The basis for the disallowance was paragraph C4552-2n of the Joint Travel Regulations (JTR), Volume 2, which provides that when an employee obtains lodging from friends or relatives, with or without charge, the cost for lodging, for the purpose of computing per diem, will be zero.

Inasmuch as Mr. Avery stayed in the home of a stranger, the previously cited regulation governing reimbursement of lodging expenses when an employee obtains lodging from friends or relatives is not applicable to his claim.

When nonconventional lodging facilities are utilized incident to a temporary duty assignment, the employee must provide an explanation of the circumstantces which is acceptable to the DOD component concerned. /1/ We have held that when an employee stays in noncommercial lodgings for which he is entitled to reimbursement of his actual expenses, he must show not only that the costs claimed were paid, but also that the payment was reasonable in the circumstances. /2/

Accordingly, the claim is returned to the Defense Logistics Agency to determine whether the amount of the claimed lodging expenses was in fact paid and whether the amount was reasonable under the unusual circumstances involved here. If the agency so determines, we would have no objection to reimbursement of such expenses.

/1/ 2 JTR, para. C4552-2m, Ch. 272, June 1, 1988.

/2/ Richard E. Garofalo, B-213777, Aug. 8, 1986; Herman Zivetz, B-213868, July 12, 1984.