13:0023(4)NG - NFFE Local 29 and Army Engineer District, Kansas City, MO -- 1983 FLRAdec NG

[ v13 p23 ]
The decision of the Authority follows:

 13 FLRA No. 4
                                            Case No. O-NG-597
    The petition for review in this case comes before the Authority
 pursuant to section 7105(a)(2)(E) of the Federal Service
 Labor-Management Relations Statute (the Statute) and presents issues
 relating to the negotiability of the following Union proposal:  /1/
          Reimbursement of travel expenses will be received by the
       employee within 15 calendar days after the travel voucher is
       submitted.  When the employee has not received reimbursement
       within this time frame, the employer will pay the employee
       interest on monies owed the employee at the current prime interest
       rate;  plus any interest charges the employee may have incurred by
       the use of his/her personal credit or charge card or accounts;
       from the date the voucher was submitted.  (Only the underscored
       portion is in dispute.)
    The proposal has two requirements.  First, when an employee has not
 been reimbursed for travel expenses within an established time frame,
 the employee would be paid interest on the amount owed him/her at the
 current prime interest rate.  Second, the employee would also be
 reimbursed for any interest charges incurred through the employee's use
 of personal credit resources to cover travel expenses.  The Agency
 generally contends that there is no statutory basis for the payment of
 interest such as proposed by the Union, and the Union responds that no
 statute or regulation forbids the payment of such interest.
    Contrary to the Union, the Authority finds that the proposal is
 inconsistent with applicable Federal law and Government-wide regulation.
  Specifically, the payment of travel expenses is addressed by 5 U.S.C.
 5701-5709.  Among other things, those provisions establish, with certain
 exceptions not relevant hereto, that "only actual and necessary travel
 expenses may be allowed," /2/ and authorize the Administrator of General
 Services to prescribe implementing regulations.  /3/ The regulations so
 prescribed are published in the GSA publication "Federal Travel
 Regulations" which are incorporated into the Federal Property Management
 Regulations (FPMR) and apply generally to official travel of civilian
 employees of Government agencies.  /4/ Therefore, the Federal Travel
 Regulations constitute a Government-wide rule or regulation within the
 meaning of section 7117(a)(1) of the Statute.  National Treasury
 Employees Union, Chapter 6 and Internal Revenue Service, New Orleans,
 District, 3 FLRA 748, 754 (1980).  The Federal Travel Regulations
 relevantly provide that:
          Traveling expenses which will be reimbursed are confined to
       those expenses essential to the transacting of official business.
    Additionally, they provide that:
          Employees traveling on official business shall provide
       themselves with funds for all current expenses.  However,
       transportation request forms and travel advances as authorized by
       1-10.2 and 1-10.3, respectively, should be used to reduce the need
       for travelers to use their own money.  /6/
    Insofar as the proposal's first requirement is concerned, it seeks to
 impose what is tantamount to an interest penalty.  Such interest penalty
 cannot be construed to be an expense directly related to the conduct of
 official business.  Therefore, it cannot be concluded that it is an
 "actual and necessary" travel expense as contemplated by the terms of 5
 U.S.C. 5706 or one that is "essential to the transacting of official
 business" within the meaning of the Federal Travel Regulations.
 Similarly, neither can the second requirement of the proposal, i.e., the
 reimbursement of employees for interest expenses, be construed as an
 "actual and necessary" expense or one which is "essential to the
 transacting of official business." In this regard, given the fact that
 employees are required to provide themselves with funds for their travel
 expenses, it cannot be said that interest charges on unpaid balances or
 otherwise incurred through use of personal credit resources are actual
 and necessary or essential to the transacting of official business as
 opposed to being in the nature of personal expenses.  The fact that an
 employee would not have incurred an expense but for the performance of
 official business does not render an expense "actual and necessary" or
 "essential to the transacting of official business." Thus an interest
 expense such as that encompassed by the second portion of the proposal
 does not meet the definition of an expense which may be reimbursed under
 the Federal Travel Regulations /7/ or 5 U.S.C. 5701-5709.
    Based on the foregoing, the Authority finds that the proposal
 conflicts with law and Government-wide regulation.  /8/
    Accordingly, pursuant to section 2424.10 of the Authority's Rules and
 Regulations, IT IS ORDERED that the Union's petition for review be, and
 it hereby is, dismissed.  Issued, Washington, D.C., September 15, 1983.
                                       Barbara J. Mahone, Chairman
                                       Ronald W. Haughton, Member