B-241809, Mar 15, 1991

B-241809: Mar 15, 1991

Additional Materials:

Contact:

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

 

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

Reimbursement of Lodging Expenses - New Equipment Training Teams: This action is in response to a request from the Finance and Accounting Officer at Fort Benning. Regarding whether members of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle New Equipment Training Team (NETT) may be reimbursed for expenses incurred during temporary duty in Louisiana. /1/ The issue presented is whether these members acted in a prudent manner. It is our view that the members acted in a prudent matter and that the temporary lodging allowances may be paid to them. Temporary duty lasts from between 6 days to 159 days and trainers may be temporarily returned to Fort Benning when they are not required to train. We have been informally advised that the NETT group originally sent a member to the area where the duty was to be performed to check on housing availability and discovered there was very little available without the signing of a long-term lease.

B-241809, Mar 15, 1991

MILITARY PERSONNEL - Travel - Per diem - Eligiblity MILITARY PERSONNEL - Travel - Temporary duty - Lodging - Travel agencies

DIGEST

Reimbursement of Lodging Expenses - New Equipment Training Teams:

This action is in response to a request from the Finance and Accounting Officer at Fort Benning, Georgia, regarding whether members of the Bradley Fighting Vehicle New Equipment Training Team (NETT) may be reimbursed for expenses incurred during temporary duty in Louisiana. /1/ The issue presented is whether these members acted in a prudent manner, as required by the Joint Federal Travel Regulations, when they paid their lodging fees at the direction of their supervisor to a rental company which in turn provided facilities and amenities tailored to the needs of the training team instead of making their own arrangements. The issue arises because of doubt as to the propriety and cost effectiveness of using an informal arrangement with a single rental agency that charged the maximum daily lodging allowance to individual soldiers without any apparent relationship between that amount and its cost in acquiring lodgings. It is our view that the members acted in a prudent matter and that the temporary lodging allowances may be paid to them.

NETT members travel throughout the country training soldiers how to use Bradley fighting vehicles. Temporary duty lasts from between 6 days to 159 days and trainers may be temporarily returned to Fort Benning when they are not required to train. We have been informally advised that the NETT group originally sent a member to the area where the duty was to be performed to check on housing availability and discovered there was very little available without the signing of a long-term lease. Due to the difficulty involved with finding adequate housing in this area, the leadership of the NETT contacted C S Procurement, a rental company, to obtain lodging for the term while they were on temporary duty in Fort Polk, Louisiana.

C S provided lodging facilities in furnished rooms for NETT members. The members paid C S the maximum daily lodging rate of $40.00 per day, although, as indicated, information in the record indicates that C S paid substantially less than that amount to the lodging establishments for each room per day.

When the claims for lodging were submitted, the finance office denied payment of lodging expenses and an investigation was conducted into the relationship and use of C S by NETT. While there was apparently no finding of criminal action in the matter, the investigative report recommends that the use of C S be terminated, stating that the costs incurred by use of C S are greater to the Army than if each individual had arranged for his own lodging.

The question presented is whether the individual NETT members may be reimbursed for their lodging. Specifically, the Army asks whether the members used the care and regard for expenses that a prudent person would if traveling at personal expense as required by the applicable travel regulations.

The general statutory purpose of the per diem allowance is to meet the actual and necessary additional living expenses incurred by the service member for hotel or other room rentals, meals purchased at restaurants and other incidental expenses when they are performing official business on temporary assignments away from their permanent posts of duty. The allowance is not designed as a mere gratuity payable to members simply on the basis that they are in a travel status or are performing an assignment regarded as temporary. Thus, although a maximum level for lodging expenses has been set, a member is required by the Joint Federal Travel Regulations to exercise the same care and regard for expenses incurred as a prudent person would exercise when traveling at personal expense.

With regard to the individual members to the NETT, it is our view that they acted in a reasonable and prudent manner, since they were apparently told that use of C S to obtain lodging would be the most cost effective. Reliance on this information was reasonable, in our view.

As pointed out by the Army, the propriety of the actions of the individual who made the initial arrangements is a matter to be dealt with by the Army's investigation and should be pursued with definite direction being provided to the groups for future assignments as to what services and lodging is appropriate under the pertinent regulations. However, the individual members should not be penalized for reliance on information suggesting that the use of C S to procure their lodging would be cost effective. We therefore conclude that they acted reasonably and may be paid the temporary duty expenses within the limits prescribed in the Joint Federal Travel Regulations.

/1/ The request was forwarded here by the Per Diem, Travel and Transportation Allowance Committee. It has been assigned PDTATAC Control No. 90-8.