August 20, 1999
The Department of the Interior recently issued Personnel Bulletin No. 99-6 (500), which establishes Departmental policy regarding payment of travel, transportation, and relocation expenses for new appointees and for employees transferred in the interest of the government or primarily for the convenience or benefit of the employee or at his/her request.
5 USC. 5724a provides that an agency must pay "the travel expenses of an employee transferred in the interest of the Government from one official station or agency to another for permanent duty; and Federal Travel Regulations 41 CFR 302-1.3(a)(i) provide that a transfer is in the interest of the Government if it is not primarily for the convenience or benefit of the employee or at his/her request. The Comptroller General as well as other legal authorities have held that transfers will usually be regarded as in the Government's interest unless an agency has established a policy for determining which transfers are primarily for the convenience or benefit of the employee or at his/her request. (See GSBCA 13860-Relo)
Departmental policy allows for managers to determine that it is not in the Government's interest to pay such expenses. However, determinations to pay or not pay these expenses must be made prior to issuing a vacancy announcement and must be provided in the notes section of the FPPS action or by hard copy notification to the servicing personnel specialist. Determinations must be made based on an evaluation of the impact non-payment may have on identifying the best qualified person to place in the position. Factors to be considered and documented in making such determinations (e.g., having a number of well qualified applicants in the local commuting area, the diversity of the local candidate pool, how quickly the position must be filled, etc.) are outlined in the Department's policy; which also states that lack of funds to pay for these expenses may not in itself be the determining factor. If a determination is made that travel, transportation, and relocation expenses will not be paid, a statement to that effect will be placed on the vacancy announcement. Once a determination is made to not pay relocation expenses and a vacancy announcement is issued, the decision cannot be changed unless a new determination is made, the original announcement is rescinded, and a new announcement is issued.
In addition, the Department's PMB provides a statement that transfers to the USGS will sign, attesting to the voluntary nature of the transfer when the individual has approached management, through an unsolicited application (one not in response to a vacancy announcement) or an employee initiated inquiry (one not in response to a vacancy announcement), for placement consideration. Travel, transportation, and relocation expenses are not permitted if the voluntary transfer is primarily for the convenience or benefit of the employee or at his/her request.
If you have any questions regarding the Department's Personnel Bulletin or this guidance, please contact your servicing personnel specialist.