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 NATIONAL FEDERATION OF FEDERAL EMPLOYEES, LOCAL 29 Union and U.S. ARMY ENGINEER DISTRICT, KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI Agency Case No. O-NG-597 DECISION AND ORDER ON NEGOTIABILITY ISSUES 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. /5/ 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 Henry B. Frazier III, Member FEDERAL LABOR RELATIONS AUTHORITY --------------- FOOTNOTES$ --------------- /1/ The Agency's assertion that the petition for review was untimely filed cannot be sustained. The record is that the petition was filed within the time frame established by sections 2424.3 and 2429.22 of the Authority's Rules and Regulations. /2/ 5 U.S.C. 5706. /3/ 5 U.S.C. 5707. /4/ FPMR 101-7, Chapter 1 (1-1.2.). /5/ FPMR 101-7, Chapter 1 (1-1.3.b.