A decision was requested on a Federal employee's claim for reimbursement of a lost or stolen travel advance. The employee obtained authorization for a cash travel advance that was not ready at the time of her departure on temporary duty. The secretary who prepared the travel advance papers assured the employee that she would pick up the funds during the employee's absence and hold them for her. The secretary picked up the money, put it in an envelope marked with the employee's name, and left it on her own desk. When the employee returned from the travel, the money was gone and the funds were reported as lost or stolen. The employee's claim for reimbursement was denied on the grounds that a travel advance is considered to be a personal loan for which the employee is responsible. Although the agency contended that the secretary acted as the employee's agent, the employee contended that the secretary was the Government's agent. The employee claimed that, insofar as she never personnally received the funds, she was not responsible for their loss. GAO has always considered travel advances to be loans and thus the personal funds of the individual to whom they are advanced. Despite the claimant's contention that the funds were Government funds, none of the formalities that usually accompany the distribution of Government funds were followed in this case. For the purposes of obtaining the travel advance, the secretary acted as the employee's representative. Accordingly, even though the employee did not obtain physical possession of the travel advance, she was responsible for the loss, and the claim for reimbursement of the travel advance was denied.
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