B-243751, October 25, 1991

B-243751: Oct 25, 1991

Additional Materials:

Contact:

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

 

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

Dr. von Gierke requested and was issued a Special Authorization "to personally procure transoceanic transportation.". Although Dr. von Gierke states that he could have purchased the tickets at the airline's ticket office or at the Wright- Patterson Air Force Base ticket office. He chose instead to purchase the tickets from a commercial travel agency located near his home. indicates that he did so because he received his travel authorization only a few days before he was to begin the travel and he had wished to schedule his travel early so as to include his planned leave overseas. He also indicates that the travel agency was more convenient since it was considerably closer to his home than the airline's ticket office or the Air Force Base.

B-243751, October 25, 1991

PRECIS-UNAVAILABLE

Henning E. von Gierke:

Dr. Henning E. von Gierke, a former Air Force civilian employee, appeals our Claims Group's settlement (Z-2862423, Mar. 19, 1991) disallowing his claim for reimbursement for the cost of airline tickets that he purchased from a commercial travel agent for his official travel in March 1989. For the reasons stated below, we affirm the Claims Group's settlement.

Because he had received neither his travel orders nor his tickets just 4 days prior to his departure on official business from Dayton, Ohio, to London, England, and to Munich, Germany, Dr. von Gierke requested and was issued a Special Authorization "to personally procure transoceanic transportation." Although Dr. von Gierke states that he could have purchased the tickets at the airline's ticket office or at the Wright- Patterson Air Force Base ticket office, he chose instead to purchase the tickets from a commercial travel agency located near his home. indicates that he did so because he received his travel authorization only a few days before he was to begin the travel and he had wished to schedule his travel early so as to include his planned leave overseas. He also indicates that the travel agency was more convenient since it was considerably closer to his home than the airline's ticket office or the Air Force Base.

With some exceptions, which are not applicable here, the applicable regulations prohibit employees from using travel agencies. Joint Travel Regulations (JTR) vol. 2, para. C2207-2 (Change No. 238, Aug. 1, 1985). The regulations allow employees unaware of this policy to be reimbursed an amount not to exceed the cost that would have been incurred if the transportation had been obtained from the carrier. JTR para. C2207-5. However, that paragraph also provides that, in such cases, the employee will be advised that a subsequent use of a travel agency will result in denial of a reimbursement for the tickets purchased from the travel agency unless the employee can show that he or she had no alternative. /1/

Less than a year previously, Dr. von Gierke had used a travel agency without authorization. To receive reimbursement, he was required to sign a statement, dated June 7, 1988, acknowledging that "further use of an unauthorized travel agency will result in denial of full reimbursement of transportation procured." It is the agency's position therefore, that he was clearly on notice as to the prohibition against use of travel agencies when he again did so in March 1989, and, therefore, that reimbursement for the airfare is prohibited.

Dr. von Gierke states, however, that he assumed that the special orders authorizing him to "personally procure" his airplane tickets implicitly authorized him to procure the tickets from a travel agency. Dr. von Gierke, however, knew of the prohibition against the use of travel agencies before he purchased his tickets and has acknowledged that he could have obtained his tickets from a proper office, although this would have caused him some inconvenience. While he may not have fully understood what his special authorization to personally procure his tickets meant, in view of his previous experience with procuring tickets from a travel agent without authorization, it was incumbent upon him to fully clarify his authority before proceeding to use the travel agent. a similar situation, involving a military member, we upheld the agency's denial of reimbursement. See Captain Albert J. Gravallese, USNR, B-204297, Dec. 22, 1981. Thus, the Air Force's decision to withhold reimbursement for the tickets is consistent with the JTR and the decisions of this Office. Accordingly, the Claims Group's disallowance of Dr. von Gierke's claim is sustained.

/1/ These provisions are a restatement for civilian employees of the Department of Defense components of the similar provisions in the Federal Travel Regulations, paras. 1-1.6e and 1-3.4b(2) (Supp. 9, eff. June 1, 1984).