Matter of: Thomas G. Croymans File: B-245203.2 Date: June 15, 1992

B-245203.2: Jun 15, 1992

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An individual was appointed to a manpower shortage category position with the agency. He was erroneously advised and issued travel orders authorizing reimbursement for expenses incurred for a househunting trip. His claim for the erroneously authorized expenses is denied. Although reimbursement of the claimed expenses was a contributing factor. It was not a controlling factor in the employee's decision to accept a position with the agency. The amount of the claim and the extent to which the expectation of reimbursement may have influenced the employee to accept employment with the government are not sufficiently compelling to justify a meritorious claim submission. Decision This decision is in response to the claim of Mr.

Matter of: Thomas G. Croymans File: B-245203.2 Date: June 15, 1992

An individual was appointed to a manpower shortage category position with the agency. He was erroneously advised and issued travel orders authorizing reimbursement for expenses incurred for a househunting trip, occupancy of temporary quarters, and real estate and miscellaneous expenses. The claimant may only be reimbursed for the travel of himself and his immediate family, travel per diem, and transportation of their household goods and personal affects under 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5723 (1988). His claim for the erroneously authorized expenses is denied. We decline to submit the employee's claim for erroneously authorized relocation expenses to the Congress under the Meritorious Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3702(d) (1988). The evidence shows that, although reimbursement of the claimed expenses was a contributing factor, it was not a controlling factor in the employee's decision to accept a position with the agency. The amount of the claim and the extent to which the expectation of reimbursement may have influenced the employee to accept employment with the government are not sufficiently compelling to justify a meritorious claim submission. See Elaine J. Huber, B-229395, Nov. 4, 1988.

Decision

This decision is in response to the claim of Mr. Thomas G. Croymans, an employee of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (Bureau), U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), for reimbursement for expenses incurred for a househunting trip, occupying temporary quarters, and real estate and miscellaneous expenses, incurred incident to his appointment to a manpower shortage category position with the agency. If the claim is disallowed, the agency requests that it be reported by the comptroller General to the Congress of the United States for consideration under the Meritorious Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3702(d) (1988). [1]

In February 1989, Mr. Croymans, who at that time was an employee of the South Dakota Department of Transportation, Pierre, South Dakota, was informed by letter that he had been selected for employment with the Bureau at Aberdeen, South Dakota. In March, he was informed in a telephone conversation with a staffing specialist that he would be filling a manpower shortage category position and that the Bureau would reimburse him for moving expenses which included a househunting trip, mileage and per diem, temporary quarters subsistence expenses, transportation of household goods, real estate, temporary storage, and miscellaneous expenses. His travel orders, dated March 27, 1989, authorized reimbursement of these expenses. In addition, two travel advances of $500 each were issued to Mr. Croymans.

The Bureau reports that Mr. Croymans, having had no previous experience with federal employment or travel regulations, accepted the position based on the previously stated conditions. The agency states that Mr. Croymans' previous experiences with the state of South Dakota were very similar in that verbal agreements were made prior to moving and then implemented after the physical move was completed.

Mr. Croymans' travel voucher was approved by the Bureau's Area Office but the Central Office determined that the travel authorization had been improperly issued and that reimbursement of the claimed expenses was not authorized. The total amount of the initial claim was $2,674.83. Of that amount, $1,279.51 was paid leaving a balance of $1,393.83 which was denied on Mr. Croymans' reclaim voucher. As a consequence, the two $500 travel advances had to be repaid.

The Bureau states that, had Mr. Croymans known that these expenses would not be covered, he could have possibly incurred less expenses but would not have been able to eliminate the expenses completely. The agency says that Mr. Croymans' decision to accept employment with the government was not solely based on whether or not his relocation expenses would be paid. However, the promise that payment would be made contributed to his final decision to accept employment with the government.

This Office has consistently held that, under the provisions of 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5723 (1988), the maximum statutory entitlement of a new appointee to a manpower shortage category position is reimbursement for his and his immediate family's travel, travel per diem, and transportation of their household goods and personal effects. However, the statute does not authorize reimbursement of the expenses of a househunting trip, temporary quarters subsistence expenses, real estate expenses, or miscellaneous expenses. Reimbursement of these expenses is authorized only for federal employees who are being transferred from one official station or agency to another for permanent duty under 5 U.S.C. Secs. 5724 and 5724a (1988. [2]

We have also held, with respect to erroneous advice given and travel orders improperly issued to a new employee, that the government cannot be bound beyond the actual authority conferred upon its agents and employees by statute or regulations. This is true even though the agent or employee may not have been completely aware of the limitation on his authority. [3] Therefore, there is no legal basis upon which Mr. Croymans' claim may be paid.

With respect to the request by the Bureau that Mr. Croymans' claim be submitted to the Congress as a meritorious claim under 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3702(d), we do not agree that such a submission is appropriate in this case. Under the provisions of the Meritorious Claims Act, the Comptroller General may submit claims to the Congress if he believes that they should be considered for legal or equitable reasons.

We recognize that Mr. Croymans acted in good faith reliance on the erroneous representations of Bureau area officials. His travel authorization contained erroneous representations as to his relocation entitlements and he was unintentionally misled by agency officials to his financial detriment. The evidence shows that, although reimbursement of the claimed expenses may have been a contributing factor, it was not a controlling factor in Mr. Croymans' decision to accept a position with the Bureau. As stated in the submission letter, while expected reimbursement of the claimed relocation costs contributed to Mr. Croymans' final decision to accept employment with the government, his decision to accept such employment was not based solely on such reimbursement. Had Mr. Croymans known that these expenses would not be reimbursed, we agree that he could possibly have incurred less expenses. However, the amount of the claim and the extent to which expected reimbursement may have influenced Mr. Croymans to accept employment with the Bureau are not sufficiently compelling to justify a meritorious claim submission to the Congress. [4]

Accordingly, we do not believe it to be appropriate to submit Mr. Croymans' claim to the Congress as a meritorious claim under the provisions of 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3702(d).

1. The request was submitted by Dr. Jerry L. Jaeger, Area Director, Bureau of Indian Affairs, DOI.

2. See John H. Teele, 65 Comp. Gen, 679 (1986), Elaine J. Huber, B-229395, Nov. 4, 1988; Kenneth Becker, B-203502, Oct. 8, 1981.

3. See Teele, supra, and the cases cited therein.

4. Huber, supra.