B-47371, FEBRUARY 2, 1945, 24 COMP. GEN. 583

B-47371: Feb 2, 1945

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THE COSTS OF SUCH TELEGRAMS MAY BE CONSIDERED AS CHARGEABLE TO APPROPRIATED FUNDS RATHER THAN AS PERSONAL EXPENSES SUCH AS ARE REQUIRED BY THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS TO BE BORNE BY THE EMPLOYEES. 1945: REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF NOVEMBER 30. AS FOLLOWS: THERE IS ATTACHED STANDARD FORM 1034 VOUCHER PAYABLE TO THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH COMPANY IN THE AMOUNT OF $2.19. WHO WAS AT THAT TIME EMPLOYED BY THIS OFFICE AND WHO RECEIVED THE BENEFIT OF THE MESSAGE. IS ATTACHED. OF THE RULING IN 17 C.G. 737 THAT "THE/DATE IS NO AUTHORITY OF LAW OR REGULATION GRANTING TO FEDERAL PERSONNEL THE ADVANTAGE OF LOWER GOVERNMENT RATES. THIS PRACTICE IN CONNECTION WITH PARTIALLY PERSONAL MESSAGES TRANSMITTED UNDER A MINIMUM CHARGE IS FREQUENTLY CONTESTED BY EMPLOYEES BUT IS GENERALLY JUSTIFIED BY AN ADMINISTRATIVE STATEMENT THAT THE ACTION IS BASED ON THE ASSUMPTION THAT THE EMPLOYEE WOULD HAVE BEEN REQUIRED TO BEAR THE MINIMUM RATE EXPENSE IN TRANSMITTING THE PERSONAL MESSAGE ALONE AND MAY NOT RECEIVE THE ADVANTAGE OF LOWER GOVERNMENT RATES.

B-47371, FEBRUARY 2, 1945, 24 COMP. GEN. 583

TELEGRAMS - PERSONAL OR OFFICIAL STATUS OF MESSAGE INCLUDING REFERENCE TO HOTEL RESERVATIONS THE MENTION OF HOTEL RESERVATIONS IN TELEGRAMS, RELATING TO OFFICIAL TRAVEL, BETWEEN ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIALS AND EMPLOYEES MAY BE CONSIDERED AS MERELY INCIDENTAL TO THE OFFICIAL BUSINESS INVOLVED, AND THE COSTS OF SUCH TELEGRAMS MAY BE CONSIDERED AS CHARGEABLE TO APPROPRIATED FUNDS RATHER THAN AS PERSONAL EXPENSES SUCH AS ARE REQUIRED BY THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS TO BE BORNE BY THE EMPLOYEES.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL WARREN TO BEN E. LEWIS, NATIONAL HOUSING AGENCY, FEBRUARY 2, 1945:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF NOVEMBER 30, 1944, AS FOLLOWS:

THERE IS ATTACHED STANDARD FORM 1034 VOUCHER PAYABLE TO THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH COMPANY IN THE AMOUNT OF $2.19, COVERING TELEGRAMS WHICH THIS OFFICE REQUESTED BILLED AT COMMERCIAL RATES, PLUS TAX, BY REASON OF THE PERSONAL NATURE OF THE MESSAGES.

PROPER COLLECTION AND DEPOSIT HAS BEEN MADE TO PROVIDE FOR PAYMENT OF THE TELEGRAM TRANSMITTED ON MARCH 23, 1944. AN EFFORT HAS BEEN MADE TO COLLECT THE COST OF THE SECOND TELEGRAM, TRANSMITTED ON JUNE 8, 1944, FROM WERNER RUCHTI, THE ADDRESSEE, WHO WAS AT THAT TIME EMPLOYED BY THIS OFFICE AND WHO RECEIVED THE BENEFIT OF THE MESSAGE. A COPY OF MR. RUCHTI'S REPLY, REQUESTING RECONSIDERATION OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION, IS ATTACHED.

IN VIEW OF THE PROVISIONS OF THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS CONCERNING TELEGRAMS OF A PERSONAL NATURE, AND OF THE RULING IN 17 C.G. 737 THAT "THE/DATE IS NO AUTHORITY OF LAW OR REGULATION GRANTING TO FEDERAL PERSONNEL THE ADVANTAGE OF LOWER GOVERNMENT RATES, TAX FREE, FOR TELEGRAMS CONCERNED WITH PERSONAL AFFAIRS OF FEDERAL OFFICERS OR EMPLOYEES," IT HAS BEEN THE PRACTICE OF THIS OFFICE TO COLLECT FROM EMPLOYEES, AT COMMERCIAL RATES, PLUS TAX, THE COSTS OF ALL WIRES OF A WHOLLY PERSONAL NATURE, THE PRO-RATED COSTS OF THE PERSONAL MESSAGES CONTAINED IN WIRES OF A PARTIALLY OFFICIAL AND PARTIALLY PERSONAL NATURE TRANSMITTED AT MORE THAN MINIMUM CHARGE, AND THE TOTAL COSTS OF WIRES OF A PARTIALLY OFFICIAL AND PARTIALLY PERSONAL NATURE TRANSMITTED UNDER A MINIMUM CHARGE.

THIS PRACTICE IN CONNECTION WITH PARTIALLY PERSONAL MESSAGES TRANSMITTED UNDER A MINIMUM CHARGE IS FREQUENTLY CONTESTED BY EMPLOYEES BUT IS GENERALLY JUSTIFIED BY AN ADMINISTRATIVE STATEMENT THAT THE ACTION IS BASED ON THE ASSUMPTION THAT THE EMPLOYEE WOULD HAVE BEEN REQUIRED TO BEAR THE MINIMUM RATE EXPENSE IN TRANSMITTING THE PERSONAL MESSAGE ALONE AND MAY NOT RECEIVE THE ADVANTAGE OF LOWER GOVERNMENT RATES, TAX FREE, FOR PERSONAL MESSAGES.

HOWEVER, IN THE INSTANT CASE IT DOES NOT APPEAR THAT COLLECTION OF THE COSTS FROM THE EMPLOYEE CAN BE REASONABLY JUSTIFIED ON THESE GROUNDS. THE TOTAL MESSAGE WAS AS FOLLOWS:

"REMEMO TRAVEL APPROVED ORDER NO. 565. ROOM RESERVED.'

IT MAY BE ASSUMED THAT TELEGRAPHIC NOTES OF OFFICIAL TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION ACTION WAS ADMINISTRATIVELY DETERMINED TO BE ESSENTIAL AND THAT THE COST OF THIS MESSAGE CAN BE PROPERLY PAID FROM GOVERNMENT FUNDS. FURTHER, AS IT IS OBVIOUS THAT THE ROOM RESERVATION WOULD HAVE BEEN UNNECESSARY IN THE ABSENCE OF THE OFFICIAL TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION ACTION WHICH REQUIRED THE TRAVELER'S SECURING A HOTEL ACCOMMODATION, IT MUST BE ACKNOWLEDGED THAT THE PERSONAL MESSAGE WAS INCIDENTAL TO THE OFFICIAL MESSAGE. IT FOLLOWS THEN THAT, AS THE PERSONAL MESSAGE RESULTED IN NO INCREASED COSTS, THE TOTAL COST OF THE WIRE RESULTED FROM THE OFFICIAL MESSAGE.

AS IT DOES NOT APPEAR THAT THE PROHIBITION AGAINST GRANTING AN EMPLOYEE THE ADVANTAGE OF LOWER GOVERNMENT RATES, TAX FREE, FOR PERSONAL MESSAGES CAN BE INTENDED FOR APPLICATION IN CASES WHERE THE EMPLOYEE'S PERSONAL MESSAGE WAS NOT OF PARAMOUNT SIGNIFICANCE AND OCCASIONED NO ADDITION COST, AND AS THIS OFFICE IS AWARE OF NO OTHER REGULATION OR RULING WHICH CLEARLY PROHIBITS THE PAYMENT FROM GOVERNMENT FUNDS OF THE COSTS OF THE TELEGRAM TRANSMITTED TO MR. RUCHTI MAY BE CERTIFIED FOR PAYMENT FROM FUNDS AVAILABLE TO THIS OFFICE.

THE TELEGRAM QUOTED IN YOUR SUBMISSION WAS ADDRESSED TO WERNER RUCHTI, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, AND WAS SENT FROM THE OFFICE OF THE ADMINISTRATOR, NATIONAL HOUSING AGENCY, AND SIGNED BY JACOB CRANE. THERE IS ATTACHED TO THE VOUCHER COPY OF A LETTER DATED NOVEMBER 4, 1944, FROM MR. RUCHTI, EXPLAINING, IN PERTINENT PART, AS FOLLOWS:

SINCE THE PRINCIPAL PURPOSE OF THE TELEGRAM WAS A REPLY TO MY MEMORANDUM TO MR. CRANE REQUESTING TRAVEL ORDER, IT SEEMS CLEAR THAT THE MESSAGE WAS NOT OF A PERSONAL NATURE, AND IS IN COMPLIANCE WITH THE INTENT OF PARAGRAPH 44 OF STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS. THE WORDS,"ROOM RESERVED," ARE PURELY INCIDENTAL AND DID NOT ADD TO THE COST OF THE TELEGRAM CONVEYING THE PRINCIPAL MESSAGE, WHICH CONSISTED ONLY OF THE FOLLOWING WORDS: "REMEMO TRAVEL APPROVED ORDER NO. 565. ROOM RESERVED.'

IN DECISION OF DECEMBER 4, 1944, B-45918, IT WAS STATED:

IN VIEW OF THE PRESENT WAR EMERGENCY AND THE KNOWN SCARCITY OF HOTEL ACCOMMODATIONS IN WASHINGTON, D.C., WHEN TELEGRAMS FROM OFFICERS OR EMPLOYEES OF THE UNITED STATES ARE ADDRESSED TO AN OFFICER OF THE GOVERNMENT AGENCY IN WHICH EMPLOYED AT WASHINGTON ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS AND, ALSO, REQUEST HOTEL ACCOMMODATIONS FOR THE SENDER OF THE TELEGRAM WHO HAS BEEN ORDERED TO WASHINGTON FOR CONFERENCE OR TEMPORARY DUTY, THE REQUEST FOR HOTEL ACCOMMODATIONS MAY BE CONSIDERED AS INCIDENTAL TO OFFICIAL BUSINESS AND THE COST OF THE ENTIRE TELEGRAM COMPUTED AT GOVERNMENT RATES, WITHOUT TAX, MAY BE PAID FROM APPROPRIATED FUNDS.

SEE ALSO, B-37399, OCTOBER 30, 1943. IT LIKEWISE FOLLOWS THAT WITH RESPECT TO TELEGRAMS EMANATING FROM AN ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICIAL AT WASHINGTON, D.C., ADDRESSED TO AN EMPLOYEE IN THE FIELD WITH REQUEST TO TRAVEL TO WASHINGTON ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS THE INSERTION OF THE WORDS "ROOMS RESERVED" IS MERELY INCIDENT TO THE OFFICIAL BUSINESS AND PAY FOR THE ENTIRE TELEGRAM FROM APPROPRIATED FUNDS IS AUTHORIZED.

THE VOUCHER, WHICH IS RETURNED HEREWITH, MAY BE CERTIFIED FOR PAYMENT, IF THE VOUCHER BE OTHERWISE CORRECT.