An authorized certifying officer for the Federal Highway Administration (FHwA) requested an advance decision regarding the propriety of certifying for payment a reclaim voucher submitted by an FHwA employee. The voucher was for reimbursement of an incentive bonus included in the broker's fee incurred in connection with the sale of the employee's residence at his former duty station. Upon notification of his transfer, the employee placed his residence for sale on the real estate market. After 7 months, the house had not been sold, and the employee executed a new sales contract which provided for a bonus to the selling company. When the property was sold, the employee paid the realty company the bonus in addition to its standard commission. FHwA allowed payment of the commission, but disallowed payment of the bonus. FHwA then recommended that reimbursement of the fee be allowed on the grounds that the employee had submitted convincing evidence that paying an incentive bonus to sell a residence had become a standard practice in the area. GAO contacted a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) office in the area concerning this practice, but the HUD official was not aware of it. Statutory authority provides for the reimbursement of expenses incurred in the sale of an employee's residence at the old duty station, but limits reimbursement of brokerage fees to the amount customarily charged in the locality. Accordingly, the reclaim voucher could not be certified for payment.
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