Traveling on Official Business – 41 C.F.R. Chapter 304

Generally, your official travel must be paid with appropriated funds. Under certain circumstances, however, the Department or your bureau/office may accept in-kind travel benefits from a non-Federal source on your behalf, or the Department or your bureau/office may be reimbursed for your travel expenses by a non-Federal source.

Travel Expense Acceptance - 31 U.S.C. § 1353

This law allows Executive Branch agencies to accept reimbursement or in-kind donations from non-Federal sources for an employee's transportation expenses (including food, lodging, incidental expenses, and registration costs) to certain functions related to the employee's official duties.

Acceptance of travel expenses from non-Federal sources is only permitted when the employee's travel is for attendance at a conference, meeting, seminar, training course, speaking engagement, or similar event that takes place away from the employee's official duty station (the employee must be in a travel status). Travel under this authority may not be used for events required to carry out DOI's statutory and regulatory functions, such as investigations, inspections, audits, site visits, or to attend vendor promotional training.

In addition to an approved travel authorization, the employee must also have an approved ethics form DI-2000 in advance of travel. Approval for accepting travel expenses is also subject to conflict-of-interest considerations. Acceptance of travel expenses from non-Federal sources will not be approved if it would cause a reasonable person with knowledge of all the relevant facts to question the integrity of the programs or operations of the Department, its offices, or bureaus.

It is not permissible for an employee to personally accept reimbursement from an outside source. All checks must be made out to DOI or to the employee's bureau. With prior approval, employees may accept "in kind" items such as airline tickets, meals, or hotel accommodations. In addition to accepting travel expenses for an employee, DOI may accept travel expenses for a spouse to accompany the employee to the same event where the spouse's presence is determined to be in the interest of DOI or the employee’s bureau.

Other Authorities to Accept Travel Expenses

31 U.S.C. § 1353 is the preferred authority to use if reimbursement or in-kind donation of travel expenses to a meeting or similar function is offered by an outside source. There are additional statutes that authorize acceptance of employees' travel expenses for other than meetings or similar functions.

The authority under 5 U.S.C. § 4111 to accept travel expenses from non-profit organizations described by section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code (with the approval of the DAEO or bureau ethics counselor), still exists when it is reasonably impractical for the agency to accept travel under 31 U.S.C. § 1353. Employees may also accept travel expenses under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act when the employee is attending an event other than a conference or a meeting, or occasions permissible under 31 U.S.C. § 1353.

Other provisions that remain in effect are (1) the authority under 5 U.S.C. § 3343 for employees to accept travel expenses in connection with details to foreign governments and public international organizations, (2) the authority under 5 U.S.C. § 5751 for employees and agencies to accept travel expenses when summoned or assigned to provide official testimony on behalf of parties other than the United States, and (3) the authority under 15 U.S.C. § 3710a to carry out agreements under the Federal Technology Transfer Act.

Finally, there are statutory authorities that allow bureaus to accept gifts of travel, food, and lodging, in connection with programs for the advancement of Bureau of Indian Affairs, the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, or other bureau-specific programs that are not covered under 31 U.S.C. § 1353. Assistance in using these authorities is provided by the Departmental Ethics Office, ethics counselors from your bureau, and your Solicitor's Office General Law Division.

Frequent Flyer Benefits - 41 C.F.R. § 301-53

Federal employees may retain for personal use promotional items, including frequent flyer miles, earned on official travel.

Airline Bumping Benefits

An employee may voluntarily give up his or her seat on an oversold flight as long as it does not interfere with his or her official duties and there is no increase in costs to the Government. If this situation applies, the employee may keep any gift or compensation under the following conditions. The employee may not claim additional travel expenses, including per diem, as a result of giving up his or her seat. The employee must take annual leave if his or her travel is delayed during duty hours and pay any expenses accrued while on leave. Any benefits resulting from an employee being involuntarily bumped from an oversold flight belong to the Government.

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