B-246056, Mar 10, 1992

B-246056: Mar 10, 1992

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He had a travel advance outstanding which was not liquidated at that time. Several years later he returned to service with the agency as a reemployed annuitant and the unliquidated advance was discovered. The agency's collection action was authorized by 5 U.S.C. Cummings: The issue in this case is whether action taken by the Department of the Interior (Interior) to recoup a $300 debt owed to it by Mr. Cummings was proper. We hold that Interior's recoupment was correct under the law. /1/ At the request of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. During processing of his travel voucher it was discovered that he had an outstanding debt to the United States in the amount of $300. Which represented the unliquidated portion of a travel advance made to him incident to authorized travel in February 1986 before his retirement that same month. /2/ This debt had not been collected at the time of his retirement because the travel advance had been erroneously applied to the travel account of another employee and was not applied to Mr.

B-246056, Mar 10, 1992

DIGEST: When an employee retired, he had a travel advance outstanding which was not liquidated at that time. Several years later he returned to service with the agency as a reemployed annuitant and the unliquidated advance was discovered. The agency then collected the advance by setoff against reimbursement due the employee for travel performed as a reemployed annuitant. The agency's collection action was authorized by 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5705.

Robert F. Cummings:

The issue in this case is whether action taken by the Department of the Interior (Interior) to recoup a $300 debt owed to it by Mr. Robert F. Cummings by means of offset against reimbursements otherwise payable to Mr. Cummings was proper. For the reasons explained below, we hold that Interior's recoupment was correct under the law. /1/

At the request of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Mr. Robert F. Cummings, a reemployed annuitant, performed travel in late 1990. As a result of that travel, he claimed expenses for which he sought reimbursement. During processing of his travel voucher it was discovered that he had an outstanding debt to the United States in the amount of $300, which represented the unliquidated portion of a travel advance made to him incident to authorized travel in February 1986 before his retirement that same month. /2/ This debt had not been collected at the time of his retirement because the travel advance had been erroneously applied to the travel account of another employee and was not applied to Mr. Cummings's travel vouchers. The error was not discovered until after Mr. Cummings's retirement.

The Department of the Interior applied his indebtedness of $300 to the amount due for the 1990 travel and paid him the balance. Mr. Cummings has reasserted his entitlement to be paid for his current travel expenses in full on the basis that he was not told at the time he retired in 1986 that he had an outstanding travel advance and, thus, the agency should not now deny him reimbursement for current travel to recoup that advance.

Section 5705 of title 5, United States Code, which authorizes advances of money for government travel, specifically provides for recoupment of sums advanced and not used for allowable travel expenses by: (1) setoff against accrued pay, retirement credit, or other amount due the employee, (2) deduction from an amount due from the United States, and (3) such other method as provided by law.

It is unfortunate that the agency did not collect the outstanding travel advance when Mr. Cummings retired in 1986 and that some confusion then arose when Mr. Cummings filed his vouchers for the 1990 travel. However, the collection of the advance was clearly authorized by 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5705, supra. See Charles E. Clark, B-207355, Oct. 7, 1982. Also, Mr. Cummings does not dispute the fact that he received the travel advance which was previously uncollected. Therefore, there is no basis on which we may allow Mr. Cummings's claim for refund of the amounts collected from him. /3/

Accordingly, Mr. Cummings's claim is denied.

/1/ This responds to a request for a decision from the Assistant Secretary - Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior.

/2/ Mr. Cummings states that he retired from the Bureau of Indian Affairs in February 1986 and was rehired in September 1990.

/3/ The Comptroller General and the head of an agency have authority to waive certain debts of employees arising out of erroneous payments of travel allowances. 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5584 and 4 C.F.R. Part 91 93 (1991). However, a travel advance is considered as a loan to an employee to enable him to perform official travel. 54 Comp.Gen. 190 (1974). Merely because it is subject to recoupment under 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5705 does not render it subject to our waiver authority. 67 Comp.Gen. 493, 495 (1988); Charles E. Clark, B-207355, Oct. 7, 1982.