B-243545, Aug 5, 1991

B-243545: Aug 5, 1991

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His reimbursement for roundtrip transportation and per diem en route to his home is limited to the per diem allowance and travel expenses which the employee would have been allowed had he remained at the temporary duty station. Since meals were provided at the facility. He is entitled only to the amount of incidental expenses ($2 per day) allowable at the facility. Sr.: The Department of Labor (DOL) requests our decision on whether it is obliged to reimburse an employee for the cost of meals taken outside its residential training facility. We hold that the DOL's obligation to reimburse the employee is limited to the per diem allowance and travel expenses which the employee would have been allowed had he remained at the residential training facility.

B-243545, Aug 5, 1991

DIGEST: An employee voluntarily returned to his home over a weekend from temporary duty at a government training facility which provided lodging and meals. His reimbursement for roundtrip transportation and per diem en route to his home is limited to the per diem allowance and travel expenses which the employee would have been allowed had he remained at the temporary duty station. Since meals were provided at the facility, he is entitled only to the amount of incidental expenses ($2 per day) allowable at the facility.

William E. Lawson, Sr.:

The Department of Labor (DOL) requests our decision on whether it is obliged to reimburse an employee for the cost of meals taken outside its residential training facility, which provides lodging and meals, on a weekend when the employee voluntarily returned to his home. /1/ For the following reasons, we hold that the DOL's obligation to reimburse the employee is limited to the per diem allowance and travel expenses which the employee would have been allowed had he remained at the residential training facility.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration of the DOL operates an Academy for training mine inspectors in Beckley, West Virginia. The DOL assigned Inspector William E. Lawson, Sr., to the Academy for temporary duty training for the period of August 7 to August 18, 1989. On the weekend of August 12-13, 1989, Mr. Lawson voluntarily returned home to Kittanning, Pennsylvania on his own time. Mr. Lawson seeks reimbursement for meals taken outside the Academy which is in excess of $4, the maximum per diem amount which the DOL would have allowed him had he remained at the Academy. Mr. Lawson claims that he should be allowed to compare his costs of returning home with the costs which the DOL would have incurred had he remained at the Academy. Specifically, he believes that the DOL should recognize the costs of the meals which the DOL did not have to incur while he was absent, since DOL only has to pay its food contractor for meals actually served.

As noted above, the Academy provides lodging and meals to the employees who are assigned there for temporary duty training. For the time period involved in this case, the maximum per diem rate prescribed by the Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) for Beckley, West Virginia, is $69, consisting of a maximum lodging amount of $43, and a meals and incidental expenses (M IE) rate of $26. /2/ The DOL allocated the M IE rate of $26 as follows: breakfast, $5; lunch, $5; dinner, $14; and incidental expenses, $2. /3/ Since meals were provided in kind, the per diem payable was limited to $2 each day.

The constructive cost reimbursement for Mr. Lawson's voluntary return trip to his home while on temporary duty is governed by 41 C.F.R. Sec. 301 -7.11(b)(4) (1990), which provides:

"When an employee voluntarily returns to his/her official station or place of abode for nonworkdays, the maximum reimbursement for the round trip transportation and per diem en route shall be limited to the per diem allowance and travel expenses which would have been allowed had the employee remained at the temporary duty station. The employee shall perform any such voluntary return travel during non-duty hours or periods of authorized leave."

This FTR provision quite clearly prescribes the maximum constructive cost reimbursement which the employee is allowed. From the record in the present case, it is clear that the DOL would have only allowed a per diem allowance of $2 per day and nothing for travel expenses had Mr. Lawson remained at the Academy over the weekend. Thus, the DOL properly reimbursed Mr. Lawson only $4 for the days of August 12 and 13, 1989. note that the FTR, promulgated under statutory authority, has the force and effect of law, and may not be waived or modified by the employing agency or our Office, even under extenuating circumstances. See Johnnie M. Black, B-189775, Sept. 22, 1977, and cases cited therein.

Accordingly, Mr. Lawson's claim for further reimbursement is denied.

/1/ This request was submitted by Mr. William R. Reise, Comptroller, Department of Labor.

/2/ See 41 C.F.R. Chap. 301, Appendix A (1989).

/3/ The rationales for the reduction in the per diem allowance and the rate of $2 for incidental expenses are found, respectively, in 41 C.F.R. Sec. 301-7.7(b) and 301-7.5(a)(2)(ii) (1990).