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SMG 2340.3

FDA STAFF MANUAL GUIDES, VOLUME III - GENERAL ADMINISTRATION

FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT

TRAVEL

ACTUAL AND NECESSARY LODGING AND LODGING DEPOSIT COSTS RELATING TO OFFICIAL GOVERNMENT TRAVEL

Effective Date: 10/22/2009

[PDF Version]

 1. Purpose
 2. Policy
 3. Background
 4. Responsibility
 5. Actual Expense Allowance
 6. Advanced Lodging Deposit
 7. Effective Date
 8. History

1. PURPOSE 

This guide provides FDA policy and reimbursement procedures for the approval of actual and necessary expenses while on official government travel and the prohibition of reimbursement for deposits for lodging costs prior to travel.

2. POLICY 

Actual Expense Allowance may be authorized when the cost for lodging at a prearranged place such as a hotel where a meeting, conference, or training session is held and the costs for the lodging have escalated because of special events and lodging expenses within the prescribed per diem allowance cannot be obtained nearby; and costs to commute to/from the nearby location consume most or all of the savings achieved from occupying a less expensive lodging. In addition AEA may occur due to mission requirements of the FDA or other extraordinary reasons dictated by the FDA.

3. BACKGROUND 

The General Service Administration (GSA) provides authority for agencies to reimburse travelers for actual and necessary travel expenses in certain approved circumstances while on official travel. In addition, this authority prohibits reimbursement for advance lodging costs prior to official travel.

4. RESPONSIBILITY 

Offices of FDA. The immediate office, or other designated office of the traveler shall prepare all necessary travel documents associated with the approval of the travel. Each Center/Office Delegated Approving Official shall authorize the travel authorization and travel voucher.

5. ACTUAL EXPENSE ALLOWANCE 

Travelers on official government travel may state on their travel authorization in GovTrip that actual expense reimbursement is warranted under certain circumstances (see Federal Travel Regulation Part 301-11, Subpart D), such as those listed below.

1. Lodging and/or meals are procured at a prearranged place such as a hotel where a meeting, conference, or training session is held, and no feasible less expensive alternative exists;

2. Costs have escalated because of special events (e.g., missile launching periods, sporting events, World’s Fair, conventions, natural disasters); lodging and meal expenses within prescribed allowances cannot be obtained nearby; and costs to commute to/from the nearby location consume most or all of the savings achieved from occupying less expensive lodging;

3. Because of mission requirements; or

4. Any other reason acceptable and approved by the agency.

In these unusual circumstances, delegated officials may authorize a daily actual expense reimbursement rate up to 300 percent of the applicable maximum per diem rate, but the reimbursement rate should not be set higher than necessary under the circumstances for each day of travel. There is no regulatory authority to exceed the 300 percent ceiling. A per diem rate at or near the ceiling level should be exceedingly rare and must be thoroughly justified on the travel documentation.

A request for authorization for actual expense reimbursement should be made in advance of travel, and authorization should be documented on the travel order in accordance with the following procedures.

A justification for actual expense must be provided in a memo addressed to the Center/Office Executive Officer.

The justification must indicate (a) the daily lodging cost to be incurred and (b) a specific explanation of why the traveler is unable to use more moderately priced accommodations. Such requests should normally be based on documented unavailability of hotel accommodations within the lodgings component or the per diem rate.

NOTE: When actual expenses are approved for a location, this will apply to the lodging component of the per diem only. The fixed rate for meals and incidental expenses is not affected.

Lodging rates will have to be documented for at least three moderately priced hotels, showing that the targeted hotel is the lowest of the three, but still exceeds the allowable per diem rate. Luxury hotels may not be used in making this comparison.

Actual expense reimbursement shall not be authorized or approved when the actual lodgings cost exceed or are expected to exceed the maximum allowable per diem allowance by only a small amount, generally more than $5.00 per night.

On some travel authorizations both “Lodgings Plus” and “Actual Expenses” will indicted because there is more than one destination point and approval for actual expenses has been given for one of them. The actual expenses authorization will apply only to the destination points specifically named and approved by the official delegate authority to approve actual expense. The lodgings plus per diem rate will apply to all other cities.

Actual expense reimbursement may also be approved after travel is completed (“post-approval”) when properly justified, under the following conditions:

  • Emergency situations in which requests for prior travel authorization were not possible; or
  • Unanticipated, unusual, and exceptional circumstances which, during the course of the specific travel assignment, resulted in the incurrence of actual and necessary subsistence expenses that were much greater than the authorized per diem allowance; or
  • Other unusual circumstances that would necessitate approval by the appropriate delegated official.

6. ADVANCED LODGING DEPOSIT 

FDA employees are encouraged to find lodging facilities that do not require an advance deposit to secure the room. The FDA will not reimburse any traveler for an advance room deposit prior to travel. The Agency will reimburse the cost of the room deposit as claimed on the travel voucher once the traveler has returned to the permanent duty station and submits the voucher in GovTrip. As always, a lodging receipt should accompany the claim.

7. EFFECTIVE DATE 

This policy was signed by William Collinson, Acting Director, Office of Financial Management, effective October 22, 2009.

8. Document History - SMG 2340.3, Actual and Necessary Lodging and Lodging Deposit Costs Relating to Official Government Travel 

STATUS (I, R, C)DATE APPROVEDLOCATION OF CHANGE HISTORYCONTACTAPPROVING OFFICIAL
Initial10/22/2009N/aOC/OA/OFO/OFMWilliam Collinson, Acting Director, Office of Financial Management