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CAFTDTI Accomodation Interpretation

SupersonicMax

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Questions for the admin gurus. Some of my folks are getting denied what I consider fair entitlements and the Wing Comptroller is being stubborn to be polite.

Domestic TD with overnight in a place where no quarters are available. Commercial accommodation is authorized but given the last minute nature of most of our TDs, I do not select, as the approving authority, their accomodation. I trust they will take the most practical and economical ones.

The situation is that more often than not, people pay more than the negotiated rate in the PSPC Accommodation and Car Rental Directory despite asking for Canadian government rate, but always below the city rate limit. When comes claim time, FSAs tell them: "Sorry, you only get X. Call the hotel to the difference back."

These claims always inevitably come back to me when tons of justification that I do not consider necessary given they paid less than the city rate limit. It is taking my and everyone in between’s time away from meaningful work. When we do business planning, we always consider the city rate limit so that’s no factor for me on that side.

When I read para 7.02(3), the first test of reasonableness is
  1. the "within city rate limit" for a single guest room at an accommodation that is both selected by the approving authority and listed in the PSPC Accommodation and Car Rental Directory , as amended from time to time;
When I read this, it tells me two things: the accommodation must be selected by the approving authority, be listed in the directory and be a single guest room. In this case, I allow them to chose their own accommodation, they chose a single guest room, and it is always in the directory so they can use the selected accommodation. The second thing is that the rate must be "within the city rate limit" meaning regardless of how much the hotel charges them in relation to the negotiated rate, as long as it is below the city rate limit, they are entitled to it all.

I have two questions:

1- Is my interpretation wrong?
2- If it is wrong, what can I do to avoid having to authorize every single claim with a hotel above the negotiated rate?

The HR cost alone exceeds what the CAF ends up not saving, not to mention the opportunity cost.

Any tangible evidence would be great (adjudication from
DCBA, grievance, etc).
 
In theory, the bookings are supposed to be done through the slow, annoying and non-user friendly contracted travel provider website.



Me, though, I'd probably point the FSAs at the Accommodation Directory and suggest that it's their job to seek the recovery, not the individual ;)

Overcharges

In the event of an overcharge at an establishment or car rental company listed in the directory, employees who have booked through the government travel services contractor, American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT), should seek their assistance in rectifying the situation. Otherwise, it's the responsibility of the employee's department to claim a refund from the establishment or car rental company concerned. The claim must be supported by a copy of the invoice.

If the establishment or car rental company fails to refund the overcharge, all information and pertinent correspondence should be forwarded to the accommodation and car rental contract management section of PSPC.
 
Questions for the admin gurus. Some of my folks are getting denied what I consider fair entitlements and the Wing Comptroller is being stubborn to be polite.

Domestic TD with overnight in a place where no quarters are available. Commercial accommodation is authorized but given the last minute nature of most of our TDs, I do not select, as the approving authority, their accomodation. I trust they will take the most practical and economical ones.

The situation is that more often than not, people pay more than the negotiated rate in the PSPC Accommodation and Car Rental Directory despite asking for Canadian government rate, but always below the city rate limit. When comes claim time, FSAs tell them: "Sorry, you only get X. Call the hotel to the difference back."

These claims always inevitably come back to me when tons of justification that I do not consider necessary given they paid less than the city rate limit. It is taking my and everyone in between’s time away from meaningful work. When we do business planning, we always consider the city rate limit so that’s no factor for me on that side.

When I read para 7.02(3), the first test of reasonableness is
  1. the "within city rate limit" for a single guest room at an accommodation that is both selected by the approving authority and listed in the PSPC Accommodation and Car Rental Directory , as amended from time to time;
When I read this, it tells me two things: the accommodation must be selected by the approving authority, be listed in the directory and be a single guest room. In this case, I allow them to chose their own accommodation, they chose a single guest room, and it is always in the directory so they can use the selected accommodation. The second thing is that the rate must be "within the city rate limit" meaning regardless of how much the hotel charges them in relation to the negotiated rate, as long as it is below the city rate limit, they are entitled to it all.

I have two questions:

1- Is my interpretation wrong?
2- If it is wrong, what can I do to avoid having to authorize every single claim with a hotel above the negotiated rate?

The HR cost alone exceeds what the CAF ends up not saving, not to mention the opportunity cost.

Any tangible evidence would be great (adjudication from
DCBA, grievance, etc).
You interpretation/methodology is generally what I have experienced right or wrong. The effort put forth to deny these claims in the first place and have mbrs do the extra bit is probably some MBA case study in inefficiency.

If you (or your admin team) haven't done so yet, I would email this to the ARC and they will get the answer from the proper authority. That way it is an official adjudication that anyone can reference. Although in true CAF fashion the ARC restricts access to their adjudications to HRAs, as they are the only ones who would ever have a need to see/access that info. /s
 
Things like this make me appreciate our travel admin folks; they are pretty reasonable and appreciate that the travel directory is out of date.

Not that we do TD much, but my last trip the only hotels were almost triple the city rate. All I had to do was show the receipt and a single line to justify it in the form and was good to go, but they had actually done the booking for us anyway.
 
Well I guess I will stir things a bit and toss in some of my points.

TD is not an admin function, it is finance.

The city rate limit is the maximum that can be claimed for accommodations in that location even if the book has a hotel listed exceeding it (figure that one) unless you are able to justify it ie - only hotel available in area.

The amount that can be reimbursed from a selection in the book is the rate indicated in the book. Those of us with some forbidden common sense do realize the book is not always up to date, take that into consideration so if the rate is reasonable and indicates it is the federal government rate we will pay it. When in doubt nothing wrong with calling the hotel to confirm. There's a tip - always ask the hotel to ensure your receipt indicates federal government rate.

If you overpay for something it is not the FSA job to chase the refund for you, it is your refund your job to chase it. That said I have done it at times for people simply because sometimes I chose to be nice. Yes, I know it says if booked through but I also know that almost no one books through it as it requires a credit card to do so and people don't want to put that in there (but they will give it to a stranger over the phone or type it into the hotel website).

To give an example - awhile back a member handed in a hotel receipt that exceeded the rate. When I looked it only said government rate. Called the hotel, they accidentally charged the provincial government rate, corrected the error and reimbursed the member the difference. They also sent a new corrected receipt so the claim could be completed. BUT - this was me being nice. I could have completed the claim at the book rate and told him to contact the hotel to sort it out himself.

Perhaps the comptroller is standing a bit firm on this because it has happened too many times? I know we have pushed back on a few things because of that which was taking up too much of our time, slowing down completions which of course those same people complained about taking too long.
 
I have delivered developing PERs to HRAs with below average skills. Complaints that a bill is within area limits but... show a need for professional development.
 
@CountDC not sure where you are booking travel but last few TDs there was nothing available at the government rate (even in the off season). In Halifax the rate was I think around $160/day; lowest we could find was close to $400 a night. It was approved ahead of time, and no issue with the claim, but the federal book is way out of date.

At the time the military quarters were full, and a lot down because the wardroom/C&POs mess was down hard for the HVAC (which is a big deal on a LEED building that is basically sealed) and had been for months. I'm sure whatever the cost was that delayed the repairs was made up in a few weeks of TD, so probably another penny wise, pound foolish self goal.
 
A special kind of fun is booking a hotel in a location where each day of the week has its own rate. You will be fine on three days and the other four days will be way over. If you average the cost over 7 days, it comes in under the city rate but the pedant will point to the official Q&A that states each night needs to be within the rate limit.
… and get a rental car to sleep in if you have to be there on only the peak price night.
 
Well I guess I will stir things a bit and toss in some of my points.

TD is not an admin function, it is finance.

The city rate limit is the maximum that can be claimed for accommodations in that location even if the book has a hotel listed exceeding it (figure that one) unless you are able to justify it ie - only hotel available in area.

The amount that can be reimbursed from a selection in the book is the rate indicated in the book. Those of us with some forbidden common sense do realize the book is not always up to date, take that into consideration so if the rate is reasonable and indicates it is the federal government rate we will pay it. When in doubt nothing wrong with calling the hotel to confirm. There's a tip - always ask the hotel to ensure your receipt indicates federal government rate.

If you overpay for something it is not the FSA job to chase the refund for you, it is your refund your job to chase it. That said I have done it at times for people simply because sometimes I chose to be nice. Yes, I know it says if booked through but I also know that almost no one books through it as it requires a credit card to do so and people don't want to put that in there (but they will give it to a stranger over the phone or type it into the hotel website).

To give an example - awhile back a member handed in a hotel receipt that exceeded the rate. When I looked it only said government rate. Called the hotel, they accidentally charged the provincial government rate, corrected the error and reimbursed the member the difference. They also sent a new corrected receipt so the claim could be completed. BUT - this was me being nice. I could have completed the claim at the book rate and told him to contact the hotel to sort it out himself.

Perhaps the comptroller is standing a bit firm on this because it has happened too many times? I know we have pushed back on a few things because of that which was taking up too much of our time, slowing down completions which of course those same people complained about taking too long.
Well, according to the policy, as dapaterson pointed out, it is on the department to recover the funds, not the employee nor the FSAs. Your job as FSA is to pay the rate paid, as long as it was booked as the federal government rate. The time we spend enforcing policies is much greater than the amount the department would pay. It is silly for me to NOT be allowed to take a hotel A within city rate limit but above the directory price that is convenient, but it is entirely acceptable to take hotel B that is still within city rate limit but is much more expensive than hotel A but matches the directory price, and is more inconvenient than hotel A.

At some point, we need to trust that members make the right choices give the circumstances. If they don’t, pay for their mistake, educate them and move on.

People that are strict on enforcing those rules are typically those that are not subject to them too often.
 
I was able to get the Wing to change its policy to accept any hotels at or under City Rate Limit with no justification vs using the directory.

Thx!

I'm curious to know if it was being denied by an FSA doing s. 34 or by someone at the RDAO shop doing s. 33.

There's no reason a unit FSA exercising S.34 on claims can't be given additional guidance from the CO, to, for example, get a written statement from the member as to why they had to pick "x,y,z" hotel and use their own judgement to either accept it, ask a supervisor if it's grey, or deny that particular expense (or an amount above what's reasonable)... member can discuss with their CoC or grieve it if think it's wrong. But if the s. 34 is being done somewhere else, under someone else's authority, well, I'm glad you were able to get it resolved.


Section 33 comes in after the claim has been S.34'd already. It is not designed to be a secondary review of a claim, which is what the CAF's incompetent group of CDAO + RDAOs (i.e. base/wing comptrollers) have turned it into so that they can demand boarding passes for an LTA claim. Section 33 is certifying that a payment can be made without sending the bank account into overdraft.

From s. 33 of the Financial Administraton Act:
Hint: Requestion means payment, when reading the word "appropriation," think "what has been authorized to be paid out"

"When requisition not to be made

(3) No requisition shall be made pursuant to subsection (1) for a payment that
  • (a) would not be a lawful charge against the appropriation; (i.e. would not be a fraudulent payment)
  • (b) would result in an expenditure in excess of the appropriation; or (i.e. pay more than has been authorized by the CO in this case)
  • (c) would reduce the balance available in the appropriation so that it would not be sufficient to meet the commitments charged against it. (i.e. would not exceed the total amount outstanding that has been certified pursuant to S. 32...not just for the claim but the entire fund... you don't really see this at unit level because "cost centres" don't actually have any money, they just track expenses... but for every year at some point it seemed CJOC had to borrow money from the CA because CJOC's commitments had grown more than their Fund Centre group....)
Nothing in there is about "I don't agree with x,y,z person's judgement skills" or "I want to enforce an additional level of scrutiny / etc." They can use s. 33 to stop suspected fraud but that's totally different than re-calculating / re-judging entitlements.

S. 33 is a cashier function. You're literally making sure there's going to be enough cash in the bank account to pay the bill without going into overdraft, not verifying the invoice particulars, which was already done pursuant to S.34.

You will note S. 34 deals with confirming the amounts are correct:

Payment for work, goods or services
  • 34 (1) No payment shall be made in respect of any part of the federal public administration unless, in addition to any other voucher or certificate that is required, the deputy of the appropriate Minister, or another person authorized by that Minister, certifies
    • (a) in the case of a payment for the performance of work, the supply of goods or the rendering of services,
      • (i) that the work has been performed, the goods supplied or the service rendered, as the case may be, and that the price charged is according to the contract, or if not specified by the contract, is reasonable,
      • (ii) where, pursuant to the contract, a payment is to be made before the completion of the work, delivery of the goods or rendering of the service, as the case may be, that the payment is according to the contract, or
      • (iii) where, in accordance with the policies and procedures prescribed under subsection (2), payment is to be made in advance of verification, that the claim for payment is reasonable; or
    • (b) in the case of any other payment, that the payee is eligible for or entitled to the payment.


1- Is my interpretation wrong?
2- If it is wrong, what can I do to avoid having to authorize every single claim with a hotel above the negotiated rate?

Yes your interpretation is wrong.

approving authority
a. in respect of TD, an officer who is authorized by or under the authority of the Chief of the Defence Staff — or by the member’s commanding officer — to approve TD for a member;
b. cut
c. cut

Because of the Delegation of Authorities matrix, that means for non-local domestic travel, overnight, it's going to be the CO.

Yes, an approving authority is meant to select the accommodations up front during the approval process. But that is the accommodation type (i.e, quarters, commercial, non-commercial, member's residence, etc.), not the actual accommodation supplier (i.e., picking what hotel they stay at).

After the member is told "thou shall stay in commercial accommodations" then 7.02(2) tells them "you are entitled to be reimbursed for actual and reasonable expenses related to staying in commercial accommodations."

Now the member goes off and books their hotel, comes back, submits a claim.

Now when the claim is being section 34'd (not section 33'd, which is where the RDAO comes in), one of the steps is to check that the member is entitled to all amounts. That's where 7.02(3) comes in - note that it says "the reasonableness of an accommodation expense under paragraph (2)(a)" is determined by...."

The person S.34'ing the claim should use 7.02(3) to determine if reasonableness was, in fact, adhered to. There is no reason that anyone with S.34 authority can't review the member's substantiation and accept it, using 7.02(3) as their guide.

See 7.03... this is the guide for the Approving Authority on how to go about choosing quarters, commercial accommodation, etc. in 7.02(a)..... it's not about choosing specifically which hotel, just about whether it should be a hotel or barracks, etc.

Even the CFTDTIs don't recommend/suggest that a CO can or should go around hand-picking everyone's bunk.... only the CAF could do something so stupid to itself....
 
Well I guess I will stir things a bit and toss in some of my points.

TD is not an admin function, it is finance.

Interpretation of compensation and benefits policy (which includes TD) is an HR function, which is why it falls under DCBA and not somewhere in Adm(Fin).

Account verification, s. 34 certification, and s. 33 is a finance function (accounting actually... it would help the CAF if it could use proper nomenclature).

The city rate limit is the maximum that can be claimed for accommodations in that location even if the book has a hotel listed exceeding it (figure that one) unless you are able to justify it ie - only hotel available in area.

The amount that can be reimbursed from a selection in the book is the rate indicated in the book.

If this is some random direction from DCBA, see above about how only the CAF can do something so stupid to itself. There is certainly nothing in the CFTDTIs that says that, but that's what you get for putting an illiterate retired Chief Clerk in a job that has such a broad impact on the CAF when it should probably be filled by a lawyer.

No way would it stand up to a grievance if a member got sent on TD and had an actual expense for a hotel that couldn't be avoided without sleeping in a parking lot.

Well, according to the policy, as dapaterson pointed out, it is on the department to recover the funds, not the employee nor the FSAs.

I interpret that to mean it's the DND rather than the outsourced contractor.... which only makes sense for the contractor if it wasn't done using their services. Nothing in that suggests "the department" can't tell it's own personnel, FSA or claimant in question, to go sort it out.
 
Problems arise when people feel the need to interpret policy that is pretty black and white....
 
Interpretation of compensation and benefits policy (which includes TD) is an HR function, which is why it falls under DCBA and not somewhere in Adm(Fin).

Account verification, s. 34 certification, and s. 33 is a finance function (accounting actually... it would help the CAF if it could use proper nomenclature).



If this is some random direction from DCBA, see above about how only the CAF can do something so stupid to itself. There is certainly nothing in the CFTDTIs that says that, but that's what you get for putting an illiterate retired Chief Clerk in a job that has such a broad impact on the CAF when it should probably be filled by a lawyer.

No way would it stand up to a grievance if a member got sent on TD and had an actual expense for a hotel that couldn't be avoided without sleeping in a parking lot.



I interpret that to mean it's the DND rather than the outsourced contractor.... which only makes sense for the contractor if it wasn't done using their services. Nothing in that suggests "the department" can't tell it's own personnel, FSA or claimant in question, to go sort it out.

Please tell me that's hyperbole ?
 
Problems arise when people feel the need to interpret policy that is pretty black and white....

You're absolutely right. Problems also arise when people decide they don't like black and white policy and go their own direction.

I just want to keep this even keeled, as we also have a whole horde of folks who take disregarding black and white policy as a point of pride.
 
Ballz, just pedantic point but an RDAO is different from a Wing/Base Compt.
 
Please tell me that's hyperbole ?

Only a little bit. The name escapes me but the person making most of the decisions for domestic benefits since about 2012 was a retired RMS Clerk who had taken up a civie position within DCBA. Sure, there was a revolving door of various Majors who were supposed to be supervising...

Said person was the driving force behind, due to lack of reading comprehension skills, deciding that if you asked to take your POMV on TD then the cost comparison would be limited to 500km, causing all the TD claims for about 4 or 5 years to have to get re-done and paid out after someone finally grieved it. The amount to be calculated was written in black and white and they were trying to apply something from a few sections above it, addressing something completely different.

Ballz, just pedantic point but an RDAO is different from a Wing/Base Compt.

Pedantic is such a pejorative, I think the nuance is not the least bit superficial.

I am super duper aware of this, but I understand how what I wrote might be perceived as otherwise. It's part of why I was asking if it was being denied at S. 33 or S. 34 level. Often times people will say "Base/Wing Comptroller" when they really mean the RDAO, because the two are very very often the same person wearing two different hats and very few people know the distinction.
 
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Problems arise when people feel the need to interpret policy that is pretty black and white....
Agreed.

I've heard plenty of times people claim that the term "reasonable", in the phrase "actual and reasonable", means within the negotiated government rate and/or the TB per diem rate.
 
The notorious DCBA aide memoire, and the various benefits never approved but paid regardless I roll the VCDS held an impromptu press conference announcing "Stop!" both come to mind...
 
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