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An Investigation of Travel Reimbursements in Connection with the INSís Operation Safeguard

December 2002
Office of the Inspector General


  U.S. Department of Justice
Immigration and Naturalization Service
U.S. Border Patrol
Office of the Chief Patrol Agent
San Diego Sector

          SDC 50/1

2411 Boswell Road
Chula Vista, California 91914-3519

April 24, 2002

FROM: William T. Veal [Signed]
SUBJECT: Ethical Issues Involving Travel Vouchers

The Service has recently experienced a significant increase in travel voucher problems, ranging from simple mistakes to ethical violations to fraud warranting criminal prosecution. Since the San Diego Sector frequently details employees to other Sectors and to the Academies, all employees are reminded of the following provisions of the Federal Travel Regulations regarding reimbursement for lodging in particular.

Reimbursement for lodging must be based on actual cost. Receipts are required for reimbursement of all lodging expenses, and receipts must accurately reflect the amount actually paid for lodging costs. It is unacceptable to submit a claim using a receipt which reflects a higher amount than actually paid for lodging. The cost of lodging, excluding tax, may be reimbursed if it does not exceed the maximum lodging amount prescribed by the applicable per diem rate. Employees are encouraged to present hotels with tax exempt forms whenever possible; however, taxes on lodging may be reimbursed as a miscellaneous expense.

  U.S. Department of Justice
Immigration and Naturalization Service

          HQFIN 80/9

425 I Street, NW
Washington, DC 20536

FROM: Judy R. Harrison
Assistant Commissioner
Office of Financial Management
SUBJECT: Frequently Asked Questions #18 - Lodging During Temporary Duty Travel

This is the eighteenth in a series of frequently asked question messages from the Office of Financial management concerning policy for travel. The topic of this memorandum is Lodging During Temporary Duty Travel (TDY). If you have further questions, please contact Tamara Echols at (202) 307-4617 or Kurt Snyder at (202) 616-9939.

Please note that the information contained in these messages does not supersede specific language in the Immigration and naturalization Service's bargaining unit contracts. Rather, the provisions of these messages should be understood and applied in a manner consistent with the requirements of the applicable labor agreement, if any.

General Rules

  1. QUESTION: What types of accommodations should I obtain while on official TDY?

    ANSWER: Employees are encouraged to stay in conventional lodging facilities, such as commercial hotels, motels and lodges, that have been approved by the Federal Emergency management Agency (FEMA) as "approved accommodations." You may make your reservations through your local Travel Management Center (TMC). Reference: Federal Travel Regulation (FTR) Section 301-11.11

  2. QUESTION: What if I choose to stay with a friend or relative?

    ANSWER: Employees are permitted to stay with friends or relatives while on TDY. However, employees who rent from a place that is not commercially available to the public will not be reimbursed the cost of comparable conventional lodging in the area or a flat "token" amount. Instead, reimbursement will be limited to additional costs your host incurs in accommodating you, (e.g., the rental of a cot or bed). The extra costs paid to the friend or relative for such items may be reimbursed to the employee but must be substantiated with proof, such a s a bill or statement. Reference: FTR Section 301-11.12

    If an employee stays in a room or house of an individual who is in the business of renting rooms to the public, then the employee renting the accommodations may be reimbursed for the rental costs. The rental cost should not exceed the amount charged to the general public and the maximum per diem rate allowed for that location.

  3. QUESTION: What if the property owner or the property management offer or agree to provide a receipt for a higher amount than the amount actually paid?

    ANSWER: An employee may not submit a claim that does not accurately reflect the amount paid for lodging. Submitting a claim for more than the amount actually incurred is a violation of the US code (18 united States Code 287, False, Fictitious or Fraudulent Claims) and can subject the employee to criminal penalties, or disciplinary or adverse action. Employees are authorized to claim up to the allotted lodging amount in a particular location. If the employee is not charged the maximum lodging per diem amount, the employee is not entitled to claim it. Employees should ensure that the lodging receipt reflects the actual costs incurred, net of any cash rebates or similar credits.

  4. QUESTION: What should I do with vouchers or credits that I receive while staying at a commercial lodging facility?

    ANSWER: Pursuant to Section 1116 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2002, the General Services Administration has issued the following regulation: Any promotional benefits or materials received from a travel service provider (i.e., frequent flyer miles, upgrades, or access to carrier clubs or facilities, and coupons for discounted meals or services provided by the hotel) in connection with official travel may be retained for personal use, if such items are obtained under the same conditions as those offered to the general public and at no additional cost to the Government. Reference: FTR 301-10 Amendment 104