B-3574, AUGUST 20, 1940, 20 COMP. GEN. 101

B-3574: Aug 20, 1940

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USE OF PRIVATELY OWNED AUTOMOBILES AT HEADQUARTERS - EXPENSE REIMBURSEMENT WHERE EMPLOYEE'S AUTOMOBILE IS USED ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS AT HIS OFFICIAL HEADQUARTERS. THAT REIMBURSEMENT OF SUCH EXPENSE WAS BASED ON AN ESTIMATED CONSUMPTION OF 1 GALLON OF GASOLINE FOR EVERY 10 MILES OF TRAVEL AND 1 QUART OF OIL FOR 100 MILES OF TRAVEL ALTHOUGH AUTOMOBILES OF WIDELY VARYING AGE. MANUFACTURE WERE USED FOR THE PURPOSE. THE AMOUNTS CLAIMED WERE STATED ON A CHARGE OF 18 CENTS PER GALLON OF GASOLINE AND 30 CENTS PER QUART OF OIL. RECEIPTS WERE NOT SUBMITTED IN SUBSTANTIATION OF THE CHARGES MADE. IN RESPONSE TO AN INQUIRY FROM THIS OFFICE CONCERNING THE METHOD EMPLOYED TO DETERMINE THE AVERAGES UPON WHICH THE CHARGES WERE BASED.

B-3574, AUGUST 20, 1940, 20 COMP. GEN. 101

USE OF PRIVATELY OWNED AUTOMOBILES AT HEADQUARTERS - EXPENSE REIMBURSEMENT WHERE EMPLOYEE'S AUTOMOBILE IS USED ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS AT HIS OFFICIAL HEADQUARTERS, REIMBURSEMENT OF THE COST THEREOF MAY NOT BE MADE ON THE BASIS OF A GENERAL AVERAGE CONSUMPTION OF GASOLINE AND OIL OF NUMEROUS AUTOMOBILES OF VARIOUS MAKES, AGES, AND CONDITIONS, INSTEAD OF ON THE BASIS OF AN AVERAGE CONSUMPTION BY THE PARTICULAR VEHICLE USED.

ACTING COMPTROLLER GENERAL ELLIOTT TO THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY, AUGUST 20, 1940:

THE AUDIT OF NUMEROUS VOUCHERS COVERING PAYMENTS TO EMPLOYEES OF THE BUREAU OF CUSTOMS, SAN PEDRO, CALIF., FOR EXPENSES INCIDENT TO THE OPERATION OF PERSONALLY OWNED AUTOMOBILES WITHIN THE HARBOR AREA OF THAT CITY DISCLOSES, IN EACH CASE, THAT REIMBURSEMENT OF SUCH EXPENSE WAS BASED ON AN ESTIMATED CONSUMPTION OF 1 GALLON OF GASOLINE FOR EVERY 10 MILES OF TRAVEL AND 1 QUART OF OIL FOR 100 MILES OF TRAVEL ALTHOUGH AUTOMOBILES OF WIDELY VARYING AGE, CONDITION, AND MANUFACTURE WERE USED FOR THE PURPOSE. IT APPEARS THAT ALL EMPLOYEES USED THE SAME QUALITY OF GASOLINE AND OIL SINCE, WITH FEW EXCEPTIONS, THE AMOUNTS CLAIMED WERE STATED ON A CHARGE OF 18 CENTS PER GALLON OF GASOLINE AND 30 CENTS PER QUART OF OIL. RECEIPTS WERE NOT SUBMITTED IN SUBSTANTIATION OF THE CHARGES MADE.

IN RESPONSE TO AN INQUIRY FROM THIS OFFICE CONCERNING THE METHOD EMPLOYED TO DETERMINE THE AVERAGES UPON WHICH THE CHARGES WERE BASED, THE COLLECTOR OF CUSTOMS, LOS ANGELES, CALIF., IN HIS REPLY OF MARCH 18, 1939, STATED THAT THE AVERAGE CONSUMPTION WAS COMPUTED FROM THE GENERAL AVERAGE OF NUMEROUS AUTOMOBILES OVER A PERIOD OF TIME AND UNDER VARYING CONDITIONS. REPLIES TO NOTICES OF EXCEPTION RECEIVED FROM THE VARIOUS PAYEES OF THESE VOUCHERS ARE GENERALLY TO THE EFFECT THAT AN ACTUAL TEST CHECK ON GASOLINE AND OIL CONSUMPTION WAS MADE FOR 10 DAYS DURING JUNE 1939, OR AT SOME UNDISCLOSED TIME, WITH A REPORTED MILEAGE VARYING FROM 9 TO 19 MILES PER GALLON OF GASOLINE AND 100 TO 200 MILES PER QUART OF OIL, ALL SUCH TESTS, HOWEVER, ALLEGEDLY HAVING BEEN PERFORMED UNDER CONDITIONS MORE FAVORABLE THAN THOSE EXISTING IN THE HARBOR AREA AT THE TIME OF THE INCURRENCE OF THE EXPENSE.

WHERE THE APPROPRIATION SOUGHT TO BE CHARGED IS SPECIFICALLY AVAILABLE FOR MAINTENANCE AND OPERATION OF PASSENGER-CARRYING VEHICLES, AS IN THESE CASES, AN EMPLOYEE MAY BE AUTHORIZED TO USE HIS AUTOMOBILE ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS AT HIS OFFICIAL HEADQUARTERS AND TO BE REIMBURSED THEREFOR ON AN ACTUAL-EXPENSE BASIS. 13 COMP. GEN. 82; 15 ID. 222, 225. WHERE THE ACTUAL AMOUNT OF GASOLINE AND OIL USED ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS MAY NOT BE DEFINITELY DETERMINED, REIMBURSEMENT HAS BEEN AUTHORIZED IN SOME INSTANCES ON THE BASIS OF AN ESTIMATED AVERAGE CONSUMPTION OF GASOLINE AND OIL, WHERE THE AMOUNT CLAIMED DOES NOT APPEAR EXCESSIVE AND WHERE EVIDENCE IS SUBMITTED SHOWING (1) THE MAKE AND MODEL OF THE AUTOMOBILE; (2) THE AVERAGE MILEAGE PER GALLON OF GASOLINE AND QUART OF OIL CONSUMED BY THAT AUTOMOBILE; (3) THE NUMBER OF MILES TRAVELED ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS; AND (4) THE PRICE PAID FOR GASOLINE AND OIL AS ESTABLISHED BY CURRENT RECEIPTS. 15 COMP. GEN. 819.

IN THE CASES HERE INVOLVED, THE AVERAGE CONSUMPTION WAS STATED TO HAVE BEEN COMPUTED FROM THE GENERAL AVERAGE OF NUMEROUS AUTOMOBILES OVER A PERIOD OF TIME. AN ALLOWANCE ON SUCH A BASIS IS TANTAMOUNT TO A COMMUTATION OF EXPENSE OR ALLOWANCE IN ADDITION TO SALARY, RATHER THAN A REIMBURSEMENT OF ACTUAL EXPENSES, AND IS IN CONTRAVENTION OF THE ACT OF MARCH 3, 1875, 18 STAT. 452, AND SECTION 1765, REVISED STATUTES.

WHILE THE AVERAGE CONSUMPTION EMPLOYED APPEARS SOMEWHAT EXCESSIVE WHEN APPLIED TO LIGHT- OR EVEN MEDIUM-WEIGHT CARS IN FAIR OPERATING CONDITION AND THE ACCOUNTING THEREFOR IRREGULAR, IT APPEARS THAT ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION WAS TAKEN IN THE BELIEF THAT IT WAS IN THE INTERESTS OF ECONOMY AND ADVANTAGE TO THE UNITED STATES AND NOT FOR THE PERSONAL CONVENIENCE OF THE EMPLOYEES. THEREFORE, IN VIEW OF ALL THE CIRCUMSTANCES APPEARING, CREDIT WILL BE ALLOWED FOR SUCH PAYMENTS MADE PRIOR TO SEPTEMBER 1, 1940, WITH THE UNDERSTANDING THAT PAYMENTS THEREAFTER MADE WILL BE SUPPORTED BY A SHOWING OF THE AVERAGE CONSUMPTION OF GASOLINE AND OIL BY THE PARTICULAR VEHICLE USED, AND BY OTHER EVIDENCE SUCH AS ABOVE INDICATED.