[Question Concerning Proper Calculation of Comparison Between Actual and Constructive Travel Costs]

B-214610: Feb 19, 1985

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An advance decision was requested concerning the proper calculation of relocation expense allowances of a GAO employee and his family who returned from overseas under a travel order that authorized common carrier mode of transportation, shipment of the employee's privately-owned vehicle (POV), excess baggage shipment, and travel by circuitous route provided that he bear any excess cost and charge excess time to annual leave. The employee drove to a port by POV, sailed and shipped the POV on a foreign-flag ship, and completed his U.S. travel by POV. GAO found that travel by the foreign-flag ship could not be considered as travel on a common carrier nor advantageous to the government. Therefore, the employee could be reimbursed only for the constructive cost of less than first class air travel and must bear any extra expense attributable to the alternate mode of travel and charge the excess travel time used to annual leave. The employee's use of his POV for his U.S. travel may be allowed since it was deemed advantageous to the government. However, the Merchant Marine Act provides that federal funds shall not be expended for use of foreign-flag vessels where American-flag vessels are available unless the necessity for the use is demonstrated; therefore, the shipment of the employee's POV on the foreign vessel was not allowed. Finally, the employee would have been eligible for reimbursement of his excess baggage on a constructive cost basis to the extent that the excess baggage expenses were based only on such charges as would have been incurred by a usually travel route. However, since the employee did not obtain any documentation on the weight or cost of shipping excess baggage, this claim was denied. The employee's travel voucher should be processed in accordance with the above.