Liability for Excess Weight Charges

B-198367: Mar 26, 1981

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An agency official requested a decision as to whether an employee of the agency is liable for the costs for transportation of household effects in excess of 11,000 pounds. When the employee was transferred, he was authorized to ship household goods not in excess of 11,000 pounds. However, the shipment amounted to 13,000 pounds net weight, as indicated by a Government bill of lading. Weight certificates submitted by the carrier reflected a net weight of 13,000 pounds but failed to identify if the weighed items belonged to the employee. The carrier billed the agency for its transportation charges and was paid on the basis of 13,000 pounds. When the agency billed the employee for the excess weight, the employee disputed the weight of 13,000 pounds. He stated that documentation of a move 4 years earlier reflected a weight of 10,850 pounds and that he was convinced that he excessed as much weight as he acquired during the intervening 4 years. He pointed out that the weight certificates were not properly completed and could not objectively be identified as pertaining to the weight of his household goods. Regulations provide that an employee being transferred is authorized to ship a maximum of 11,000 pounds of household goods at Government expense and that the employee is responsible for the costs shipping of any overage. GAO has consistently held that excess costs involved in the shipment of household goods are primarily matters for determination by the agency. The agency's determination will not be questioned in the absence of evidence showing that determination to be clearly in error. GAO held that the weight of a prior or subsequent move was not necessarily indicative of the weight of the move in question because of the possibility of inclusion or exclusion of items which would vary the prior or subsequent weights. Accordingly, the employee was liable for the costs incurred by the excess weight of his household goods.