B-241928, Feb 7, 1991

B-241928: Feb 7, 1991

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The agency found that had a cost comparison been made it would have shown that the Government Bill of Lading method would have been more cost effective. The original travel order was not in error. Jr.: The issue in this case is whether Mr. Which was $3. On the basis that no cost comparison was made prior to the movement of household goods. Legal rights and liabilities with regard to travel expenses vest under the statute and regulations when the travel is performed. Travel orders may not be revoked or modified retroactively so as to increase or decrease the rights which have become fixed after the travel has been performed. Except where there are errors apparent on the face of the original orders or where all the facts and circumstances surrounding the issuance of the original orders clearly demonstrate that some provision which was previously determined and definitely intended had been inadvertently omitted in their preparation.

B-241928, Feb 7, 1991

CIVILIAN PERSONNEL - Relocation - Household goods - Commuted rates - Reimbursement - Eligibility DIGEST: An agency authorized reimbursement under the commuted rate method for an employee's shipment of household goods. Subsequent to the employee's completion of the shipment of his household goods, the agency found that had a cost comparison been made it would have shown that the Government Bill of Lading method would have been more cost effective. Since the regulations do not contemplate that an agency should obtain a cost comparison after a household goods shipment has been completed merely for the purpose of limiting reimbursement to the employee, and the original travel order was not in error, the employee may be reimbursed under the commuted rate method.

Wilson Barber, Jr.:

The issue in this case is whether Mr. Barber may be reimbursed under the commuted rate method for transporting his household goods by private conveyance in connection with a permanent change-of-station move. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior, issued a travel order authorizing the commuted rate method for transporting Mr. Barber's household goods from Gallup, New Mexico, to Phoenix, Arizona, without benefit of a cost comparison between the commuted rate and the Government Bill of Lading (GBL) methods. The record contains no explanation as to why the agency authorized the commuted rate method.

Mr. Barber moved his household goods and submitted a voucher claiming an amount based on the commuted rate. However, relying on our decision in John S. Phillips, 62 Comp.Gen. 375 (1983), the agency reimbursed him only for his actual expenses, which was $3,306.94 less than the commuted rate amount, and $2,615.94 less than the estimated GBL cost, on the basis that no cost comparison was made prior to the movement of household goods.

As a general rule, legal rights and liabilities with regard to travel expenses vest under the statute and regulations when the travel is performed. As a result, travel orders may not be revoked or modified retroactively so as to increase or decrease the rights which have become fixed after the travel has been performed, except where there are errors apparent on the face of the original orders or where all the facts and circumstances surrounding the issuance of the original orders clearly demonstrate that some provision which was previously determined and definitely intended had been inadvertently omitted in their preparation. See e.g. Jerrold Schroeder, B-226868, Nov. 4, 1988, and cases cited.

There do not appear to be any such errors in connection with Mr. Barber's original travel orders. Under 41 C.F.R. Sec. 101-40.203-4 (1988), it is the responsibility of the appropriate official in the employee's agency to request a cost comparison from the General Services Administration (GSA) in a timely manner and to take that into consideration when making a final decision as to whether to authorize the GBL method or the commuted rate method. See Wilbert D. Hammers, B-234696, Nov. 3, 1989. However, for unknown reasons in this case the agency decided to forego the GSA estimates and authorized the commuted rate method. In fact, the list of available carriers was not obtained from GSA until March 1990, and the movement of household goods took place in September 1988.

Moreover, GSA has advised that the regulations do not contemplate that an agency should obtain a cost comparison after a household goods shipment has been completed merely for the purpose of limiting reimbursement to the employee. See John S. Phillips, 62 Comp.Gen. at 377-378. We note that the Phillips case, in which the employee was limited to the actual expenses he incurred in transporting his household goods himself, is distinguishable from the instant case in that the employee's travel order there stated, "method of reimbursing household goods costs to be determined." Therefore, neither method was specified prior to the transport. However, Mr. Barber's orders specifically authorized transport by the commuted rate method. See Wilbert D. Hammers, B-234696, supra.

Accordingly, the agency should reimburse Mr. Barber in the amount of $3,306.94, which is the difference between the actual expenses for which he already has been reimbursed and the commuted rate to which he is entitled.