Matter of:Edouard H. Fortier File: B-248960 Date:November 9, 1992

B-248960: Nov 9, 1992

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Employee's reclaim for $747.30 is allowed where agency failed to indicate method of shipment on his travel orders and there was insufficient time available to obtain cost comparison. DECISION The issue presented is whether Mr. Fortier was issued travel orders on August 25. Fortier's claim for reimbursement of that amount was reduced $747.30 by the Customs Service to the cost of ship- ment by the GBL method because Mr. Fortier also points out that he is only claiming his actual expenses and not the full $2. 075.85 that he says is due under the commuted rate. It is the responsibility of the transferred employee's agency to request a cost comparison from the General Services Administration (GSA) as far in advance of the moving date as possible (preferably 30 calendar days) and to take that cost comparison into consideration when making a final decision as to whether to authorize the GBL method or the commuted rate method. 41 C.F.R.

Matter of:Edouard H. Fortier File: B-248960 Date:November 9, 1992

CIVILIAN PERSONNEL Relocation Household goods Commuted rates Reimbursement Amount determination Transferred employee claimed reimbursement of $1,521.58 for commercial shipment of his household goods. Agency reduced reimbursement by $747.30 to cost of shipment by government bill of lading method. Employee's reclaim for $747.30 is allowed where agency failed to indicate method of shipment on his travel orders and there was insufficient time available to obtain cost comparison. Further, the Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) does 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. John S. Phillips, 62 Comp.Gen. 375 (1983).

DECISION The issue presented is whether Mr. Edouard H. Fortier, a United States Customs Service employee, may be reimbursed the full cost of commercial shipment of his household goods incident to a permanent change of duty station. For the following reasons, we allow the employee's reclaim for the full cost he incurred.

Mr. Fortier was issued travel orders on August 25, 1988, authorizing him to transfer from Miami, Florida, to Houston, Texas, with a reporting date of September 12, 1988. The travel orders authorized transportation of household goods at an estimated expense of $5,000, but failed to specify whether the actual expense method (Government Bill of Lading (GBL)) or the comm method of shipment.

Mr. Fortier made his own arrangements and shipped 2,100 pounds of household goods under a commercial bill of lading by United Van Lines at a total cost of $1,521.58. Mr. Fortier's claim for reimbursement of that amount was reduced $747.30 by the Customs Service to the cost of ship- ment by the GBL method because Mr. Fortier did not get advance authorization for use of the commuted rate from Customs' National Logistics Center in accordance with Customs Travel Handbook, Sec. IX, pp. 947-949.

Mr. Fortier has filed a reclaim voucher for the reduction of $747.30 on the basis that the Federal Travel Regulation, 41 C.F.R. 302-8.3(c)(4)(i) (1991), states that the commuted rate shall be used for individual transfers without consideration being given to the actual expense method. Mr. Fortier also points out that he is only claiming his actual expenses and not the full $2,075.85 that he says is due under the commuted rate.

Under the centralized household goods traffic management program, 41 C.F.R. Sec. 101-40.203-4 (1991), it is the responsibility of the transferred employee's agency to request a cost comparison from the General Services Administration (GSA) as far in advance of the moving date as possible (preferably 30 calendar days) and to take that cost comparison into consideration when making a final decision as to whether to authorize the GBL method or the commuted rate method. 41 C.F.R. Sec. 101-40.200 (1991); Wilson Barber, Jr., B-241928, Feb. 7, 1991. We note that Mr. Fortier had less than 3 weeks to report to his new duty station after his travel orders were issued. Thus, the short time frame for reporting left insufficient time for the agency to obtain a cost comparison from GSA. See Wilbert D. Hammers, B-234696, Nov. 3, 1989.

The employee's agency also has the duty to issue a travel authorization in advance of the employee's reporting date, and to indicate on the travel authorization the specific allowances which are a procedures for procurement of travel and transportation services. FTR, 41 C.F.R. Sec. 302 -1.3(c) (1991). In this case, Customs failed to indicate on Mr. Fortier's travel orders the method to be used in shipping his household goods. This responsibility may not be shifted to the employee. The agency is responsible for making the determination in advance of shipment.

We recently decided a case involving similar facts. In John S. Phillips, 62 Comp.Gen. 375 (1983), the travel orders also failed to specify the authorized method of shipping household goods, stating instead that the method was to be determined later. Mr. Phillips, like Mr. Fortier, made his own arrangements for shipping his household goods by commercial carrier. Based on GSA's advice 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, we held that an agency rate determination made after the fact should not be used to limit the employee's entitlement to the low-cost carrier, but we also held that Mr. Phillips should not receive an entitlement above his actual costs. Therefore, he was allowed the actual cost of his shipment by commercial carrier. John S. Phillips, supra, at 378-379 (1983).

Accordingly, Customs should reimburse Mr. Fortier the difference between the amount he has already received and the full cost he incurred of $1,521.58, if otherwise correct.