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The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), requests an advance decision under 31 U.S.C. 3529 on whether NRCS may properly obligate current year appropriations to buy next year model motor vehicles (cars) through the General Services Administration's (GSA) AutoChoice Summer Program. Letter from E. Steven Butler, CFO, NRCS, to Gary L. Kepplinger, General Counsel, GAO, Sept. 24, 2008 (NRCS Request). In this program, while NRCS may submit an order to GSA in the summer of one fiscal year, it must wait until the next fiscal year for the information on next year model cars that it needs to finalize its order; at that time, GSA will award NRCS's order to a vendor for manufacture and delivery. NRCS Request. For the reasons stated below, we conclude that an order submitted through GSA's AutoChoice Summer Program does not constitute an obligation of the current fiscal year. GSA has informed us that it is in the process of retooling GSA AutoChoice to eliminate its Summer Program. Teleconference between Nathan C. Guerrero, Assistant General Counsel, Personal Property Division, GSA, Susan A. Poling, Managing Associate General Counsel, GAO, and Lauren S. Fassler, Senior Attorney, GAO, June 30, 2009.

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B-128762, AUG. 30, 1956

TO MR. THOMAS B. HOWARD:

WE REFER TO YOUR LETTER RELATIVE TO THE SETTLEMENT OF JUNE 6, 1956, WHICH DISALLOWED YOUR CLAIM FOR $22.68 AND $28.98, ADMINISTRATIVELY DISAPPROVED ON YOUR TRAVEL VOUCHERS FOR TRAVEL PERFORMED FROM JUNE 29 TO AUGUST 1, 1955, AND FROM AUGUST 2 TO SEPTEMBER 1, 1955, AS AN EMPLOYEE OF THE ARMY AUDIT AGENCY, ATLANTA REGION, ATLANTA, GEORGIA.

BY TRAVEL AUTHORIZATIONS NO. 134 ARO AND NO. 196 ARO, DATED JUNE 27 AND AUGUST 2, 1955, RESPECTIVELY, YOU WERE AUTHORIZED TO TRAVEL FROM ATLANTA, GEORGIA, TO ANNISTON ORDNANCE DEPOT, ANNISTON, ALABAMA, TO JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA, TO ANNISTON ORDNANCE DEPOT AND RETURN, FOR THE PERFORMANCE OF TEMPORARY DUTY. THE ORDER AUTHORIZED TRAVEL BY PRIVATELY OWNED CONVEYANCE AT $0.07 PER MILE. THE MILEAGE IN QUESTION IS FOR TRAVEL BETWEEN ANNISTON ORDNANCE DEPOT AND YOUR PLACE OF LODGING. IN YOUR LETTER YOU PRESENT NO FACTS WHICH HAVE NOT ALREADY BEEN CONSIDERED BY OUR OFFICE.

IT APPEARS TO BE YOUR CONTENTION THAT SUITABLE ACCOMMODATIONS WERE NOT AVAILABLE AT THE ANNISTON ORDNANCE DEPOT AND AS A RESULT THEREOF YOU HAD OBTAINED LIVING QUARTERS NINE MILES FROM THE DEPOT AND HAD TO COMMUTE DAILY.

PARAGRAPH 8B AND 44 OF THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS, PROVIDE, IN PERTINENT PART, AS FOLLOWS:

"WHERE THE NATURE AND LOCATION OF THE WORK WHERE TEMPORARILY STATIONED ARE SUCH THAT SUITABLE MEALS AND LODGINGS CANNOT BE PROCURED THERE, THE EXPENSE OF DAILY TRAVEL REQUIRED TO PROCURE SUBSISTENCE AT THE NEAREST AVAILABLE PLACE WILL BE CONSIDERED AS NECESSARY TRANSPORTATION NOT INCIDENTAL TO SUBSISTENCE. A STATEMENT OF THE NECESSITY FOR SUCH DAILY TRAVEL SHOULD ACCOMPANY THE TRAVEL VOUCHER.

"DEFINITION.--- THE PER DIEM IN LIEU OF SUBSISTENCE EXPENSES WILL BE HELD TO INCLUDE ALL CHARGES FOR * * * TRANSPORTATION BETWEEN PLACES OF LODGINGS OR WHERE MEALS ARE TAKEN AND PLACES OF DUTY.'

WHILE CERTAIN GENERAL RULES HAVE BEEN ESTABLISHED FOR DETERMINING WHETHER TRAVEL PERFORMED BY EMPLOYEES BETWEEN PLACE OF LODGING AND TEMPORARY DUTY STATION SHOULD BE CONSIDERED AS NECESSARY TRANSPORTATION NOT INCIDENTAL TO SUBSISTENCE OR INCLUDED IN THEIR ALLOWANCE FOR SUBSISTENCE (PER DIEM), SUCH DETERMINATION MUST BE BASED UPON THE FACTS OF EACH CASE. SEE 3 COMP. GEN. 284; 16 ID. 562; 17 ID. 711; 26 ID. 286; 28 ID. 151; AND 32 ID. 188.

YOUR CONTENTION THAT SUITABLE ACCOMMODATIONS WERE NOT AVAILABLE AT THE ANNISTON ORDNANCE DEPOT IS NOT BORNE OUT BY THE RECORD. THERE IS ON FILE IN OUR OFFICE A STATEMENT FROM THE COMMANDING OFFICER, ANNISTON ORDNANCE DEPOT, WHICH STATES THAT "THERE ARE QUARTERS AVAILABLE TO CIVILIANS ON TDY THIS STATION AND THESE QUARTERS ARE ADEQUATE FOR U.S. ARMY OFFICERS.' THIS STATEMENT MADE BY THE COMMANDING OFFICER OF THE DEPOT WOULD INDICATE THAT SINCE THE ACCOMMODATIONS THAT ARE OFFERED TO CIVILIANS ON TEMPORARY DUTY AT THE DEPOT ARE THE SAME WHICH ARE CONSIDERED SUITABLE FOR UNITED STATES ARMY OFFICERS, THEY ARE SUITABLE FOR CIVILIANS. THE PROVISIONS OF PARAGRAPH 8B REQUIRE THAT SUITABLE MEALS AND LODGINGS CANNOT BE PROCURED BEFORE THE EXPENSE OF DAILY TRAVEL REQUIRED TO PROCURE SUCH ACCOMMODATIONS AT THE NEAREST PLACE WILL BE CONSIDERED AS NECESSARY TRANSPORTATION NOT INCIDENTAL TO SUBSISTENCE AND THE FURNISHING OF A STATEMENT TO THAT EFFECT. ON THE PRESENT RECORD YOU HAVE NOT CONCLUSIVELY ESTABLISHED THROUGH ADMINISTRATIVE CHANNELS THAT SUITABLE MEALS AND LODGINGS WERE NOT AVAILABLE AT THE ANNISTON ORDNANCE DEPOT.

ACCORDINGLY, THE DISALLOWANCE OF YOUR CLAIM WAS PROPER AND UPON REVIEW THAT ACTION IS SUSTAINED.

REGARDING YOUR STATEMENT THAT YOU HAD BEEN REIMBURSED FOR IDENTICAL TRAVELING EXPENSES ON THREE DIFFERENT OCCASIONS, YOU ARE ADVISED THAT IF CLAIMS UNDER IDENTICAL CIRCUMSTANCES WERE ADMINISTRATIVELY ALLOWED, SUCH CLAIMS WOULD BE FOR CONSIDERATION IN THE POST AUDIT OF THE VOUCHERS INVOLVED AND SUCH ACTION WOULD BE TAKEN WITH RESPECT THERETO AS DEEMED APPROPRIATE.

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