B-239363, Sep 27, 1991, 70 Comp.Gen. 717

B-239363: Sep 27, 1991

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Was requested during that training to execute a 1-year service agreement designating Washington. One week later he was issued a permanent change-of-station authorization and his wife shipped their household goods and travelled at government expense to Washington. Per Diem at Location Made Permanent Duty Station: This decision is in response to a request from an Authorized Certifying Officer. Department of Energy (DOE). /1/ The question raised is whether a newly appointed employee may continue to receive per diem for temporary duty at an orientation/training location after it has been designated his first permanent duty station. We conclude that his entitlement to receive per diem ended when permanent change-of-station orders were issued to him.

B-239363, Sep 27, 1991, 70 Comp.Gen. 717

CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Relocation - Expenses - Reimbursement - Eligibility An employee on temporary duty in Washington, D.C., for orientation/training en route to his undetermined first permanent duty station, was requested during that training to execute a 1-year service agreement designating Washington, D.C., as his permanent duty station, but the agency states no decision on his duty station had in fact been made. One week later he was issued a permanent change-of-station authorization and his wife shipped their household goods and travelled at government expense to Washington, D.C. Therefore, since the record does not establish notice to the employee of his duty station assignment until he received his permanent change-of-station authorization, his temporary duty allowances continued until that latter date.

David S. Shafer-- Manpower Shortage Category Appointee-- Per Diem at Location Made Permanent Duty Station:

This decision is in response to a request from an Authorized Certifying Officer, Department of Energy (DOE). /1/ The question raised is whether a newly appointed employee may continue to receive per diem for temporary duty at an orientation/training location after it has been designated his first permanent duty station. For the following reasons, we conclude that his entitlement to receive per diem ended when permanent change-of-station orders were issued to him.

BACKGROUND

Mr. David S. Shafer, a new manpower shortage category appointee with DOE, was authorized to perform temporary duty travel from Phoenix, Arizona, to Washington, D.C., to attend orientation/training in the agency's Management Intern Development Program for the period July 7 to August 8, 1989, prior to being assigned to his first permanent duty station. That travel authorization was amended three times as follows: (1) on July 10, 1989, for temporary additional duty travel from Washington, D.C., to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and return; (2) on August 4, 1989, to extend the temporary duty orientation/training in Washington, D.C., through September 1, 1989; and (3) on September 25, 1989, to further extend that temporary duty period in Washington, D.C., to September 9, 1989.

In the meantime, on August 4, 1989, Mr. Shafer was asked to sign a 1 year service agreement designating Washington, D.C., as his permanent duty station. However, no final decision had been made at that time that Washington, D.C., would be his permanent station; the agency did this for administrative convenience because it was the last day all the interns would be together. On August 11, 1989, he was issued a permanent change- of-station authorization to permit his wife to ship their household goods and travel from Tucson, Arizona, to Washington, D.C.

Mr. Shafer submitted a claim voucher for his wife's travel from Arizona to Washington covering the period August 20-24, 1989. He also submitted a voucher in the amount of $3,937.50 to cover his living expenses for the period August 5 through September 9, 1989, when he completed his orientation/training. Payment on that latter voucher was administratively disallowed on the basis that his temporary duty assignment in Washington, D.C., had been made permanent effective August 4, 1989, when he signed the service agreement. Mr. Shafer has appealed that disallowance.

By way of support for Mr. Shafer, the Director of Personnel and Career Development of DOE, by memorandum dated February 28, 1990, points out that a number of administrative errors were made in processing Mr. Shafer's personnel actions and in the issuance of his various travel orders. explains that, although it was expected that Washington, D.C., would become his permanent duty station, there was the possibility that he might have been assigned elsewhere. He states that the actual decision to assign Mr. Shafer to permanent duty in Washington was not made until the week of September 18, 1989.

OPINION

It is a longstanding rule that officers and employees of the federal government must bear the expense of travel and transportation to their first permanent duty stations in the absence of a provision of law or regulation providing otherwise. One such provision of law is contained in 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5723 (1982). That provision authorizes the travel and transportation expenses of a manpower shortage position appointee and his immediate family. This includes the movement of their household goods and other personal effects from their place of residence at the time of selection to the first permanent duty station. However, it does not include travel per diem for members of the employee's immediate family, temporary quarters subsistence expenses, real estate expenses, or a miscellaneous expense allowance. Those expense reimbursements are authorized only for federal employees who are being transferred from one official station or agency to another for permanent duty (5 U.S.C. Sec. 5724(a)(1)).

The statutory provision authorizing per diem to employees on official travel away from their posts of duty is contained in 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5702 (1988). This authority has been interpreted by the implementing provisions of section 301-7.4(a) of the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR), /2/ to prohibit an employee from receiving per diem at his permanent duty station. We have consistently held that when an employee is transferred to a place at which he is already on temporary duty, the transfer is effective on the date he receives definite notice thereof, and he may not thereafter be paid per diem at that location. John W. Corwine, B-203492, Dec. 7, 1982, and decisions cited. See also 30 Comp.Gen. 94 (1950). This is true even though there may be an administrative delay in the processing and issuance of a formal transfer order. 24 Comp.Gen. 593 (1945) and Bertram C. Drouin, 64 Comp.Gen. 205 (1985).

Where an employee performs temporary duty at a location away from his permanent duty station and while there executes a 1-year service agreement designating the temporary duty location as his new permanent duty station, ordinarily such action would qualify as notice to an employee of his immediate transfer to that location for the purpose of terminating per diem. However, the facts in this case are unusual.

The service agreement was presented to Mr. Shafer for signature on August 4 only as a matter of administrative convenience. According to the agency a decision to assign him to Washington had not been made at that time, and the record before us does not establish that Mr. Shafer was on notice that Washington would be his permanent duty station. We think the record does establish that he was on notice of his assignment to Washington on August 11 when the travel authorization for his wife was issued. Within a week his household goods were moved out of his residence in Tucson and on August 20 his wife began travel to Washington. Under these circumstances we have no objection to the payment of temporary duty allowances to Mr. Shafer through August 11.

With regard to his claim for the period August 12 to September 9, 1989, we do not believe it is appropriate to submit the matter to the Congress as a meritorious claim under 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3702(d) (1988). It is not the purpose of the Meritorious Claims Act to provide for payment simply because expenses were incurred. There must be a direct causal relationship between an agency error and expenses which the employee would not have incurred otherwise. John H. Teele, 65 Comp.Gen. 679 (1986). The expenses involved here were day-to-day living expenses which Mr. Shafer would have continued to incur, whether or not he was entitled to per diem.

/1/ Mr. V. Joseph Startari.

/2/ 41 C.F.R. 301-7.4(a) (effective May 10, 1989). Formerly FTR, para. 1 -7.4a.