B-70058, OCTOBER 20, 1947, 27 COMP. GEN. 222

B-70058: Oct 20, 1947

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TRAVELING EXPENSES - PERSONAL CONVENIENCE - RETURN TO HEADQUARTERS UPON ILLNESS WITHOUT COMPLETION OF TEMPORARY DUTY WHERE AN EMPLOYEE PERFORMING ASSIGNED DUTIES AT A TEMPORARY DUTY STATION IS TAKEN ILL AND IS UNABLE TO COMPLETE SUCH DUTIES. ARE NOT CHARGEABLE AGAINST APPROPRIATED FUNDS. THE EMPLOYEE WAS DIRECTED TO PROCEED FROM WASHINGTON. THE COMMISSION WAS REQUIRED TO ASSIGN THE HEARINGS TO ANOTHER EXAMINER RESULTING IN A COST OF $156.15 FOR TRAVELING EXPENSES ALONE. STATED TO BE THE DATE HE WOULD HAVE ARRIVED AT WASHINGTON HAD HE DEPARTED FROM CORPUS CHRISTI IMMEDIATELY UPON THE CONCLUSION OF THE HEARING AT THAT POINT. WAS UNDER ORDERS TO RETURN TO WASHINGTON. IS ENTITLED TO BE REIMBURSED FOR THE EXPENSES OF THAT PART OF THE TRIP TO WASHINGTON.

B-70058, OCTOBER 20, 1947, 27 COMP. GEN. 222

TRAVELING EXPENSES - PERSONAL CONVENIENCE - RETURN TO HEADQUARTERS UPON ILLNESS WITHOUT COMPLETION OF TEMPORARY DUTY WHERE AN EMPLOYEE PERFORMING ASSIGNED DUTIES AT A TEMPORARY DUTY STATION IS TAKEN ILL AND IS UNABLE TO COMPLETE SUCH DUTIES--- AN OCCURRENCE WHICH GENERALLY PLACES AN ADDITIONAL COST ON THE GOVERNMENT THROUGH THE NECESSITY OF ASSIGNING ANOTHER EMPLOYEE TO COMPLETE THE UNFINISHED DUTIES- -- THE EXPENSES OF RETURN OF THE EMPLOYEE TO HIS OFFICIAL STATION INCLUDING PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE FOR SUCH PERIOD OF TRAVEL, BEING FOR THE PERSONAL CONVENIENCE OF THE EMPLOYEE, ARE NOT CHARGEABLE AGAINST APPROPRIATED FUNDS.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL WARREN TO W. P. BARTEL, INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION, OCTOBER 20, 1947:

THERE HAS BEEN CONSIDERED YOUR LETTER OF OCTOBER 1, 1946 (1947), AND ENCLOSURES, RELATIVE TO THE CLAIM OF RALPH H. JEWELL FOR $42.10 ALLEGED TO BE DUE FOR PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE AND TAXICAB FARES INCURRED IN CONNECTION WITH TRAVEL PERFORMED BETWEEN WASHINGTON, D.C., AND CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS, AS AN EMPLOYEE OF THE INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION DURING THE PERIOD APRIL 21 TO MAY 5, 1947.

BY TRAVEL ORDER DATED APRIL 16, 1947, THE EMPLOYEE WAS DIRECTED TO PROCEED FROM WASHINGTON, .C., HIS OFFICIAL STATION, TO CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS, FOR THE PURPOSE OF CONDUCTING A HEARING FOR THE COMMISSION ON APRIL 24TH, THENCE TO BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA, ON APRIL 28TH, AND FINALLY TO KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE, ON MAY 5TH FOR LIKE PURPOSES. THE SAID TRAVEL ORDERS AUTHORIZED A PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE OF $6 TO RETURN TO HIS OFFICIAL STATION. IN ACCORDANCE THEREWITH, THE EMPLOYEE TRAVELED FROM HIS HEADQUARTERS TO CORPUS CHRISTI AND HELD THE NECESSARY HEARING ON APRIL 24TH AND 25TH. HOWEVER, IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING THE CONCLUSION THEREOF, HE BECAME ILL AND HE THEREUPON NOTIFIED THE COMMISSION BY TELEPHONE THAT HE WOULD BE UNABLE TO HOLD THE REMAINING TWO HEARINGS AT THE SCHEDULED TIMES. IN VIEW THEREOF, HIS IMMEDIATE SUPERIOR INFORMED HIM THAT HE WOULD BE RELIEVED OF HOLDING THE HEARINGS AT BATON ROUGE AND KNOXVILLE AND THAT HE THOUGHT SAID HEARINGS WOULD BE CANCELED. AS A MATTER OF FACT, THE COMMISSION WAS REQUIRED TO ASSIGN THE HEARINGS TO ANOTHER EXAMINER RESULTING IN A COST OF $156.15 FOR TRAVELING EXPENSES ALONE.

ON MAY 1, 1947, THE CLAIMANT DEPARTED FROM CORPUS CHRISTI AND ARRIVED AT WASHINGTON, D.C., MAY 5TH, HAVING BEEN FURNISHED SUCH TRANSPORTATION BY THE USE OF GOVERNMENT TRANSPORTATION REQUESTS. HE NOW CLAIMS REIMBURSEMENT FOR TAXICAB FARES INCURRED FROM OFFICE TO STATION ON APRIL 21ST, STATION TO HOME ON MAY 5TH, AT WASHINGTON, D.C., AND BETWEEN HOTEL AND STATION ON APRIL 24TH AND MAY ST, AT CORPUS CHRISTI, AS WELL AS PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE DURING THE PERIOD APRIL 21ST TO APRIL 28TH, STATED TO BE THE DATE HE WOULD HAVE ARRIVED AT WASHINGTON HAD HE DEPARTED FROM CORPUS CHRISTI IMMEDIATELY UPON THE CONCLUSION OF THE HEARING AT THAT POINT. THE EMPLOYEE CONTENDS THAT SINCE HIS IMMEDIATE SUPERIOR RELIEVED HIM OF THE DUTY OF PROCEEDING TO BATON ROUGE AND KNOXVILLE AND DIRECTED HIM TO RETURN TO WASHINGTON, D.C., HE HAD NO AUTHORITY TO HOLD THE SUBSEQUENT HEARINGS, WAS UNDER ORDERS TO RETURN TO WASHINGTON, AND, AT THE VERY LEAST, IS ENTITLED TO BE REIMBURSED FOR THE EXPENSES OF THAT PART OF THE TRIP TO WASHINGTON, EXTENDING FROM CORPUS CHRISTI TO BATON ROUGE--- WHICH IS ON A DIRECT ROUTE FROM CORPUS CHRISTI TO WASHINGTON-- INCLUDING PER DIEM FOR THE PART OF THE RETURN TRIP. HOWEVER, HE ADMITS THAT THE REASON FOR THE MODIFICATION OF HIS TRAVEL ORDERS WAS HIS ILLNESS.

YOU REQUEST AN ANSWER TO THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:

1. WHERE AN EMPLOYEE HAS AN ASSIGNMENT ON A DEFINITE ITINERARY, BUT ON ACCOUNT OF ILLNESS CONTRACTED AT THE FIRST POINT OF ASSIGNMENT IT IS NECESSARY TO SEND ANOTHER EMPLOYEE TO COMPLETE THE ITINERARY, CAN HE BE PAID ANY PORTION OF THE EXPENSE FOR TRAVEL INCURRED ON HIS RETURN TO HIS HEADQUARTERS?

2. WHERE AN EMPLOYEE HAS COMPLETED HIS ASSIGNMENT AT THE MOST DISTANT POINT ON HIS ITINERARY, WHICH IS HIS FIRST POINT OF DUTY AND BECOMES ILL AND CANNOT COVER HIS FURTHER ASSIGNMENTS, BUT THE NEXT POINT ON HIS ITINERARY IS DIRECTLY INTERMEDIATE BETWEEN FIRST POINT AND HIS HEADQUARTERS, CAN HE BE PAID TRANSPORTATION AND SUBSISTENCE BETWEEN THE POINT WHERE HE BECAME ILL, AND HIS NEXT POINT OF DUTY?

SECTION 3 OF THE ACT OF DECEMBER 29, 1941, 55 STAT. 876, PROVIDES THAT AUTHORIZED CERTIFYING OFFICERS "SHALL HAVE THE RIGHT TO APPLY FOR AND OBTAIN A DECISION BY THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL ON ANY QUESTION OF LAW INVOLVED IN A PAYMENT ON ANY VOUCHERS PRESENTED TO THEM FOR CERTIFICATION.' ACCORDINGLY, THIS OFFICE IS WITHOUT JURISDICTION TO RENDER A DECISION TO YOU AS A CERTIFYING OFFICER UPON GENERAL QUESTIONS -- SUCH AS PRESENTED HERE--- AND SAID QUESTIONS WILL BE CONSIDERED ONLY SO FAR AS THEY RELATE TO THE SUBMITTED VOUCHER.

THE GENERAL RULE IS THAT WHERE AN EMPLOYEE IS TAKEN ILL WHILE IN A TRAVEL STATUS NECESSITATING HIS RETURN TO HEADQUARTERS WITHOUT COMPLETING THE DUTY ASSIGNED, HE IS NOT ENTITLED TO REIMBURSEMENT FOR THE EXPENSE OF THE RETURN TRIP WHICH IS CONSIDERED A PERSONAL TRIP AND NOT TRAVELING ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS. 6 COMP. GEN. 278. BUT THAT RULE IS SUBJECT TO THE QUALIFICATION THAT WHERE THE ILLNESS OCCURS REASONABLY COINCIDENT WITH THE TERMINATION OF OFFICIAL DUTY IN A TRAVEL STATUS, REIMBURSEMENT MAY BE ALLOWED IN AN AMOUNT NOT TO EXCEED THE AMOUNT THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN INCURRED IF THE EMPLOYEE HAD RETURNED IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE COMPLETION OF HIS OFFICIAL DUTIES BY THE SHORTEST USUALLY TRAVELED ROUTE. 8 COMP. GEN. 570. AN IMPORTANT FACTOR HAVING A BEARING UPON THE RULE JUST STATED IS THAT BY FAILURE OF THE EMPLOYEE TO COMPLETE THE DUTIES ASSIGNED IN RESPECT OF ANY DETAIL AWAY FROM HIS OFFICIAL HEADQUARTERS AN ADDITIONAL EXPENSE OR BURDEN MAY BE PLACED UPON THE GOVERNMENT THROUGH THE NECESSITY OF ASSIGNING ANOTHER EMPLOYEE TO COMPLETE THE TASK LEFT UNFINISHED BY THE INCAPACITATED EMPLOYEE. SEE 20 COMP. GEN. 540.

IN THE INSTANT CASE, IT APPEARS THAT ALTHOUGH THE EMPLOYEE COMPLETED HIS ASSIGNMENT AT CORPUS CHRISTI, TEXAS, ILLNESS PREVENTED HIS UNDERTAKING THE OTHER DUTIES WHICH HE WAS DIRECTED TO PERFORM PRIOR TO RETURNING TO HIS OFFICIAL STATION AND THAT IT WAS NECESSARY FOR THE GOVERNMENT TO INCUR THE ADDITIONAL EXPENSE OF SENDING ANOTHER EMPLOYEE TO BATON ROUGE AND KNOXVILLE TO HOLD THE SCHEDULED HEARINGS. UNDER SUCH CIRCUMSTANCES, IT MUST BE CONCLUDED THAT FROM THE TIME THE EMPLOYEE BECAME ILL UNTIL HE REPORTED FOR DUTY AT HIS HEADQUARTERS, ALL EXPENSES INCURRED WERE PERSONAL AND LEGALLY ARE NOT CHARGEABLE AGAINST APPROPRIATED FUNDS OF THE INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISSION. IT IS TRUE THAT THE TRAVEL ORDERS ISSUED TO THE EMPLOYEE AUTHORIZED HIS RETURN TO HIS OFFICIAL STATION AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE, BUT SUCH A RIGHT IS CONDITIONED UPON THE EMPLOYEE'S COMPLETING THE ASSIGNED DUTIES AWAY FROM HIS HEADQUARTERS. IN THE EVENT AN EMPLOYEE IS TAKEN ILL AND IS UNABLE TO COMPLETE SUCH DUTIES--- AN OCCURRENCE WHICH GENERALLY PLACES AN ADDITIONAL COST ON THE GOVERNMENT--- THERE IS NO OBLIGATION ON THE PART OF THE GOVERNMENT TO PAY THE EXPENSE OF HIS RETURN TO HIS OFFICIAL STATION INCLUDING PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE FOR SUCH PERIOD OF TRAVEL. MOREOVER, THERE IS NO LEGAL JUSTIFICATION FOR THE VIEW THAT THE EMPLOYEE IN THE INSTANT CASE WAS "TRAVELING ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS" SUBSEQUENT TO APRIL 25, 1947, THE DATE ON WHICH HE BECAME ILL, AND, SINCE IT IS UNDISPUTED THAT ANY MODIFICATION OF THE EMPLOYEE'S TRAVEL ORDERS WAS FOR HIS PERSONAL CONVENIENCE, NO RIGHT TO EXPENSES OF RETURN TRAVEL OCCURRED THEREUNDER.

HENCE, NO AMOUNT MAY BE ALLOWED ON THE SUBMITTED VOUCHER FOR PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE SUBSEQUENT TO MIDNIGHT, APRIL 25TH (SEE PARAGRAPH 45 (A), STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS), NOR ARE TAXICAB FARES INCURRED IN CORPUS CHRISTI AND WASHINGTON, D.C., ON MAY ST AND 5TH, RESPECTIVELY, REIMBURSABLE. FURTHERMORE, THE SUM PAYABLE FOR PER DIEM DURING THE PERIOD APRIL 21ST TO 25TH AND TAXICAB FARES INCURRED ON APRIL 21ST AND 24TH IS FOR OFFSET AGAINST THE COST TO THE GOVERNMENT OCCASIONED BY THE EMPLOYEE'S USE OF GOVERNMENT TRANSPORTATION REQUESTS FOR THE TRAVEL PERFORMED FROM CORPUS CHRISTI TO WASHINGTON. ANY ADDITIONAL AMOUNT REMAINING DUE FROM THE EMPLOYEE AFTER SUCH OFFSET HAS BEEN ACCOMPLISHED WOULD BE FOR COLLECTION FROM THE EMPLOYEE BY PROPER ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION.

ACTION ON THE VOUCHER, WHICH, TOGETHER WITH SUPPORTING PAPERS, IS RETURNED HEREWITH, SHOULD BE TAKEN IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE ABOVE.