Rest and Recuperation (R&R) Travel Benefits Under Some Microscope

A 26 segment × 3 exposure (78 frames in total)...Image via WikipediaThe State Dept’s OIG has just posted a memo to “M” dated April 1, 2011 on the Oversight of Rest and Recuperation Travel Documentation and Certification, Report Number ISP-I-11-37. Some interesting items:

  • R&R justification for continued eligibility has not been submitted by US Consulate General Hong Kong for 6 years, US Embassy Greece for 10 years, and US Embassy Malta for 20 years.
  • The R&R destination for US Consulate General Naha, Japan is Hong Kong.

  • The R&R destination for US Consulate General Hong Kong is  ____ (what is Sydney, Australia??). 
  • The six regional bureaus and nine functional bureaus spent more than $30.8 million (approximately $26.3 and $4.5 million respectively) for R&R travel in FY 2010
  • R&R expenses for Afghanistan and Iraq totaled more than 35 percent of the Department’s total 2010 R&R expenses   

Excerpts:

The purpose of R&R is defined in 3 FAH-1 H-3721.2 as: “Conditions of life at the post present distinct and significant difficulties of sufficient severity to justify temporary relief for an employee and employee’s eligible family members during a period of assignment.” The regulation identifies 11 factors that, at a minimum, are used to justify and approve a post’s request for R&R designation. In designating a relief destination for R&R posts, the location must have a climate, altitude, or environment sufficiently different from that of the R&R post. Another important factor for determining a relief destination is the cost of travel to the nearest point that provides the necessary change of conditions from post.

There are approximately 146 overseas missions (at more than 190 locations) designated for R&R in 3 FAH-1 H-3722. The six regional bureaus and nine functional bureaus spent more than $30.8 million (approximately $26.3 and $4.5 million respectively) for R&R travel in FY 2010 (other agencies’ R&R costs are not included in this figure). It should be noted that R&R expenses for Afghanistan and Iraq totaled over $11 million for FY 2010 (more than 35 percent of the Department’s total 2010 R&R expenses).

Overseas missions approved for R&R travel benefits are required to submit documentation biennially to their regional bureaus to justify their continued eligibility (see 3 FAH-1 H-3721.4). OIG determined that Embassies Athens and Valletta and Consulate General Hong Kong may not have submitted documentation for recertification to their regional bureaus for a number of years. A review of available documentation at each mission indicated that it has been approximately:

• Six years for Consulate General Hong Kong
• Ten years for Embassy Athens
• Twenty years for Embassy Valletta

During the inspection, OIG determined that the conditions for which Embassies Athens and Valletta were approved for R&R benefits no longer exist and recommended that the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs (EUR) discontinue R&R for both missions at an annual cost savings of more than $180,000. In an informal response to the Athens report, EUR informed OIG that it agrees with the recommendation and is in the process of informing Embassy Athens of its decision to discontinue its benefits.

The local conditions cited in Consulate General Hong Kong’s original justification may have changed, and OIG recommended that Consulate General Hong Kong submit justification for its continued eligibility for R&R to the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs (EAP). Complicating matters is the fact that 3 FAH-1, Exhibit 3722(3) lists Hong Kong as the relief destination for Consulate General Naha, Japan. In response to this review, EAP stated that it is in the process of changing the relief destination for Consulate General Naha to Sydney, Australia. Consulate General Naha’s R&R cost for FY 2010 was more than $14,000; a change in relief destination to Sydney would result in a substantial increase in R&R travel costs. The local conditions at Consulate General Naha may not warrant its continued eligibility for R&R. In addition, Consulate General Hong Kong should be ineligible for R&R benefits if local conditions are suitable for it to be designated as a relief destination.  An annual savings of more than  $170,000 could be realized if R&R benefits were eliminated for both Consulates General Hong Kong and Naha.

Read in full here.

Advertisements