B-168829, JUL 27, 1976

B-168829: Jul 27, 1976

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QUESTION IS RAISED AS TO WHETHER PAYMENT MAY BE MADE FOR TRAVEL EXPENSES OF BOTH EMPLOYEE AND SPOUSE FOR HOUSE-HUNTING PURPOSES INCIDENT TO CHANGE OF STATION WHERE EMPLOYEE AND SPOUSE TRAVELLED SEPARATELY AND AT DIFFERENT TIMES. 5 U.S.C. THOMAS FUCHS WAS AUTHORIZED ONE ROUND TRIP TO HIS NEW DUTY STATION TO SEEK RESIDENCE QUARTERS. HE WAS REIMBURSED ONLY FOR THE TRIP TAKEN BY HIS WIFE ON THE GROUND THAT THE REGULATIONS PERMIT ONLY ONE REIMBURSABLE ROUND TRIP. FUCHS ARGUES THAT BOTH HE AND HIS WIFE WERE AUTHORIZED A ROUND TRIP AND THAT THE SEPARATE TRIPS THEY TOOK WERE BOTH FOR THE PURPOSE OF HOUSE HUNTING AND SHOULD BE CONSIDERED AS ONE HOUSE-HUNTING TRIP AS AUTHORIZED. THE APPLICABLE REGULATION IS PARAGRAPH 2-4.1A OF THE FEDERAL TRAVEL REGULATIONS (FPMR 101-7) (MAY 1973) WHICH PROVIDES IN PART AS FOLLOWS: "PAYMENT OF TRAVEL AND TRANSPORTATION EXPENSES OF THE EMPLOYEE AND SPOUSE TRAVELING TOGETHER.

B-168829, JUL 27, 1976

QUESTION IS RAISED AS TO WHETHER PAYMENT MAY BE MADE FOR TRAVEL EXPENSES OF BOTH EMPLOYEE AND SPOUSE FOR HOUSE-HUNTING PURPOSES INCIDENT TO CHANGE OF STATION WHERE EMPLOYEE AND SPOUSE TRAVELLED SEPARATELY AND AT DIFFERENT TIMES. 5 U.S.C. SEC. 5724A AND FEDERAL TRAVEL REGULATIONS, PARA. 2-4.1, ALLOW ONLY ONE ROUND TRIP FOR HOUSE HUNTING PURPOSES, NOT SEPARATE TRIPS TAKEN AT DIFFERENT TIMES. HENCE, EXPENSES OF THE SECOND TRIP MAY NOT BE REIMBURSED.

THOMAS FUCHS - REIMBURSEMENT FOR A HOUSE-HUNTING TRIP:

AN ADVANCE DECISION HAS BEEN REQUESTED BY LETTER OF JUNE 11, 1975, FROM ROBERT J. BROWN, THE ASSISTANT REGIONAL DIRECTOR FOR MANPOWER AT THE DENVER OFFICE OF THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, ON THE ALLOWABILITY OF PAYING THE EXPENSES OF AN EMPLOYEE'S WIFE INCURRED DURING A SEPARATE HOUSE- HUNTING TRIP IN CONNECTION WITH A PERMANENT CHANGE OF STATION FROM WASHINGTON, D.C., TO DENVER, COLORADO.

BY TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION DATED JULY 2, 1974, MR. THOMAS FUCHS WAS AUTHORIZED ONE ROUND TRIP TO HIS NEW DUTY STATION TO SEEK RESIDENCE QUARTERS. HIS WIFE TRAVELLED TO DENVER ON JULY 13 AND RETURNED ON JULY 16, 1974. MR. FUCHS TRAVELLED TO DENVER ON JULY 25 TO FOLLOW-UP ON THE ACTIONS INITIATED BY HIS WIFE AND RETURNED TO WASHINGTON, D.C., ON JULY 26, 1974. MR. FUCHS CLAIMED REIMBURSEMENT FOR BOTH OF THE ROUND TRIPS, BUT HE WAS REIMBURSED ONLY FOR THE TRIP TAKEN BY HIS WIFE ON THE GROUND THAT THE REGULATIONS PERMIT ONLY ONE REIMBURSABLE ROUND TRIP.

MR. FUCHS ARGUES THAT BOTH HE AND HIS WIFE WERE AUTHORIZED A ROUND TRIP AND THAT THE SEPARATE TRIPS THEY TOOK WERE BOTH FOR THE PURPOSE OF HOUSE HUNTING AND SHOULD BE CONSIDERED AS ONE HOUSE-HUNTING TRIP AS AUTHORIZED, EVEN THOUGH TRAVEL TOOK PLACE AT SEPARATE TIMES.

THE PROVISION OF LAW (5 U.S.C. SEC. 5724AA)(2)) WHICH AUTHORIZES REIMBURSING A TRANSFERRED EMPLOYEE FOR EXPENSES CONNECTED WITH SEEKING A PERMANENT RESIDENCE AT HIS NEW OFFICIAL STATION PROVIDES THAT SUCH EXPENSES MAY BE ALLOWED "ONLY FOR ONE ROUND TRIP IN CONNECTION WITH EACH CHANGE OF STATION OF THE EMPLOYEE."

THE APPLICABLE REGULATION IS PARAGRAPH 2-4.1A OF THE FEDERAL TRAVEL REGULATIONS (FPMR 101-7) (MAY 1973) WHICH PROVIDES IN PART AS FOLLOWS:

"PAYMENT OF TRAVEL AND TRANSPORTATION EXPENSES OF THE EMPLOYEE AND SPOUSE TRAVELING TOGETHER, OR THE EMPLOYEE OR SPOUSE TRAVELING INDIVIDUALLY IN LIEU OF TRAVEL BY THE OTHER OR TOGETHER, FOR ONE ROUND TRIP BETWEEN THE LOCALITIES OF THE OLD AND NEW DUTY STATIONS FOR THE PURPOSE OF SEEKING RESIDENCE QUARTERS, MAY BE AUTHORIZED WHEN CIRCUMSTANCES WARRANT. A ROUND TRIP BY THE EMPLOYEE FOR THIS PURPOSE, WHEN AUTHORIZED, MUST BE ACCOMPLISHED PRIOR TO HIS REPORTING TO THE NEW OFFICIAL STATION. SUCH A ROUND TRIP BY THE SPOUSE, WHEN AUTHORIZED IN LIEU OF A ROUND TRIP BY OR WITH THE EMPLOYEE, MAY BE ACCOMPLISHED AT ANY TIME BEFORE RELOCATION OF THE FAMILY TO THE NEW OFFICIAL STATION BUT NOT BEYOND THE MAXIMUM TIME FOR BEGINNING ALLOWABLE TRAVEL AND TRANSPORTATION."

THE QUOTED REGULATION CLEARLY RESTRICTS REIMBURSEMENT FOR HOUSE HUNTING PURPOSES TO ONE ROUND TRIP BY BOTH HUSBAND AND WIFE, OR BY EITHER SPOUSE. THUS, IN OUR DECISION OF APRIL 9, 1969, B-166414, WHICH INVOLVED THE EARLY TERMINATION OF A JOINT HOUSE-HUNTING TRIP BY AN EMPLOYEE DUE TO OFFICIAL BUSINESS, WE HELD THAT, ALTHOUGH HIS SPOUSE COULD HAVE COMPLETED THE HOUSE -HUNTING TRIP ALONE WITHOUT RETURNING TO THE OLD STATION WITH HER HUSBAND, HE WAS NOT ENTITLED TO REIMBURSEMENT FOR THE EXPENSES OF A SECOND HOUSE- HUNTING TRIP LATER PERFORMED BY HIS WIFE.

SINCE THE SPECIFIC RESTRICTION IN THE FEDERAL TRAVEL REGULATIONS WHICH PERMITS ONLY ONE ROUND TRIP TO SEEK A NEW RESIDENCE IS NOT INCONSISTENT WITH THE AUTHORIZING PROVISION OF LAW, WE CANNOT AUTHORIZE PAYMENT TO MR. FUCHS FOR THE EXPENSES INVOLVED IN HIS HOUSE-HUNTING TRIP AFTER HIS WIFE HAD ALREADY COMPLETED A SEPARATE HOUSE-HUNTING TRIP. SEE 47 COMP.GEN. 189 (1967).

IN VIEW OF THE ABOVE, THE CLAIM MAY NOT BE PAID.