oversight

Analysis of Members' New Allowance System

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1977-01-03.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                         DOCUMENT RESUME

00307 - [A0590880] (Restricted)

(Analysis of Members' New Allcwance System]. B-145u92;
GGD-77-18. January 3, 1977. 9 pp. + enclosure (2 pp.).

Report to Rep. David B. Obey, Chairman, Mouse of
Representatives: Commission on Administrative Review; by Elmer
B. Staats, Comptroller General.
Contact: Office of the Comptroller General.
Budget Function: General Government: Legislative Functions
     (801) .
Organization Concerned: General Services Administration.
congressional Relevance: House of Representatives: Commission on
    Administrative Review.
Authority: 2 U.S.C. 43.

          An analysis was performed of funds available to Members
of the House or Representatives to operate a Congressional
office under the new allowance system effective January 3, 1977.
The analysis ccvered clerk-hire and Members' expenses incurred
in the discharge of official duties, services available in
connection with official duties, and personal benefits available
to Members.   Findings/Conclusions' Under the new system, Members
will be entitled to several annual allowances for use in
official duties. Some of these allowances will be limited to
specific purposes, others will be pooled and available to pay
necessary expenses in any of the categories included in the
pool. Total annual expenses will be from $300,328 to $316,751
depending on the Member's district. All allcwances will be
available for a 1-year period from January 3, and cannot be used
beyond this period. Appropriate documentation of expenses 'ust
be submitted to the Clerk of the House. (HTW)
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C    , B-145492                                                     JAN3         1977

C)
     The Honorable David R. Obey
     Chairman, Cammission on Administrative Review
     House of Representatives
           t
     Dear Mr. Chairman:
          This letter is in response to your September 28, 1976, request that
     we analyze the appropriated funds available to Members of the House of
     Representatives to operate a congressional office under the nSew allowance
     system which is to become effective January 3, 1977.
            Our analysis of the allowances to be provided to Members under the
     new system covered the allowances to be paid from appropriated funds for
     clerk-hire and Members' expenses incurred in the discharge of official
     and representational duties. In addition, we have included information
     or.n a few of the other services and privileges available to Members in
     connection with their official duties. Certain benefits and courtesies
     of a personal nature, available to Members are also described in the
     enclosure to this letter.
          The new allowance system for Members of the house of Representatives
     was developed in accordance with the rules of the House by the Committee
     on House Administration and is described in that Comanittee's "Regulations
     and Acccm ting Procedures for Allowances and Expenses of Caanmittees,
     Members and Employees of the U.S. House of Representatives, Ninety-
     Fourth Congress, January 1977."
          Under the new allowance system, Members of the House of khpresen-
     tatives will be entitled to several annual allowances for tse in official
     and representational duties. Some of these allowances will be limited to
     specific purpcs-,s; others wi'l be pooled and will be available to pay
     necessary and official expenses in any of the allowance categories
     included in the pool.
          All of the Members' annual allowances will be available for a 1-year
     period from noon on January 3 of one year until immediately prior to noon
     on January 3 of the following year. Unexpendci annual allowances cannot
     be used beyond the stated period.


                                                                          GGD-77-18
B-145492


      The new regulations require Members to present appropriate documen-
tation of all expenses submitted to the Clerk of the House for payment
or reimbursement mad to certify that the expenses were incurred for
official purposes.
     For examile, the Clerk of the House will pay vouchers submitted
by Members under the constituent communications allowance when accoapa-
nied by invoices and the Member's certification that the payment is for
allowable printing and production of newsletters, questionnaires or
similar correspondence. Also, bills for items purchased from the House
Office Supply Service will be sent to Members monthly. Members are
expected to note on the bills all items of an official nature and to
submit a check or money order to cover items of an other than official
nature.

     The following table illustrates the annual allowances available
under the new system to Members representing selected districts in
different areas of the United States.




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B-145492


                                          Member's district
                                 Adjacent to
                            District of Columbia    Midwest   Farwest

  ANNUAL ALLOWNCES
Specific purpose allowances
Clerk-hire                        $255,144         $255,144   $255,144
Lyndon Baines Johnson intern         1,000            1,000      1,000
Travel to and from sessions
  of Congress                              18           590      1,163
  Total specific purpose
    allowances                    $256,162         $256,734   $257,307

Pooled allowances
  Fixed amount
Constituent communications           5,000            5,000      5,000
Official expenses outside the
  District of Columbia               2,000            2,000      2,000
Stationery                           6,500            6,500      6,500
Equipment lease                      9,000            9,000      9,000
Postage                                211              211        211

  Variable amount
Travel allowance (MAbers
  and employees)                     2,250           12,756     16,623
Telephone and telegraph 1/           5,000            8,250      8,875
District office rental              14 205            7 575     11 235
  Total pooled allowances           44,166                        444

Total annual allowances           $300,328         $308,026   $316,751

1/Based on the election to use WATS (Wide Area Telephone Service) or
  similar service. See page 7 for further discussion of the telephone
  and telegraph allowance.
     In addition to their annual allowances, Members will have two
continuing allowances. one to cover purchased electrical and mechanical
equipment used in Members' Washington, D.C., offices and the other to
furnish district offices. The amounts of these continuing allowances
will be the same for all iMebers as follows:
           Purchased office equipment             $ 5,500
           District office furnishings             27,000

                 Total continuing allowances      $32,500


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B.145492


    All of the allownances are discussed in greater detail beloti.
SPECIFIC PURPOSE ALLOWANCES
Clerk-hire
     Each Member will be entitled to hire up to 18 persons for his
Washington, D.C., and district office staff. The annual allowance for
this purpose is $255,144. No more thor.n one-twelfth of the allowance
($21,262) may be spent in any one mot _h for salaries. Employees' arnual
salaries may not be less than $1,20C or more than $39,600.
     A Member may spend a maximum of $12,000 of the clerk-hire allowance
each session of Congress for computer and related services. In addition,
a maximum of $3,000 of the clerk-hire allowance may be transferred to the
equipment lease allowance each session of Congress for office equipment
leasing.
               from the clerk-hire allowance will be made monthly by the
,:lerK of the House of Representatives. Salary payments will be made only
upon a monthly certification by each Member as to the amount of salary
due each employee, the physical location of each employee, the performance
of official duties by the employee, and the relationship of each employee
to the employing Memoer and to any other Member of Congress.
     Beginning January 3, 1978, when a Member employs a retired Federal
employee, the combined total of the employee's annuity and congressional
salary will be charged against the Member's clerk-hire allowance. In the
interim, only the employee's salary will be charged against the Member's
clerk-hire allowance, and the Clerk of the House will pay to the civil
service retirement fund an amount equal to the employee's annuity.
Lyndon Baines Johnson intern
     In addition to the clerk-hire allowance, $1,000 will be available to
each Member to hire for his Washington, D.C., office one additional
employee--a Lyidon Baines Johnson congressional intern--for 2 months in
any one year.
Travel to and from
sessions of Congress
     Each Member is authorized by a law enacted in 1866 (2 U.S.C. 43) to
receive mileage at the rate of 20 cents a mile to be estimated by the near-
est route usually traveled in going to and returnirng from each regular
session of Congress. The regulations provide that payment is to be




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B-145492


computed on the basis of actual mileage traveled, not to exceed mileages
shown in the Rand McNally Highway Mileage Guide plus 10 percent.
     We were advised that a Member can be paid this allowance whether
or not any actual travel is performed and no voucher or certification
of travel is required. Upon receipt of the Member's authorization by
the Sergeant at Arms of the House, the payment will be credited to the
Member' s account.
POOLED ALLOWANCES
     Other allowances available to Members will be considered as a pool
of funds and Members may elect to transfer funds among allowances. For
example, a Member representing a district adjacent to Washington, D.C.,
may elect to spend some of the travel allowance ($2,250) on one or more
of the seven other categories of expenses include, in the pooled allowances.
The ability to transfer funds among allowance wi .provide Members flex-
ibility to meet their individual needs,
l:ixed-amount allowances
     The amounts of some allowances will be the same for each Member.
These fixed-amount allowances for each regular session of Congress are:
     Constituent communications
     Each Member will be entitled to a constituent communications allowance
of $5,000 each session of Congress, for use in the printing and production
of newsletters, questionnaires or similar correspondence.
     For the purposes of this allowance, production costs include statio-
nery, envelopes, printing ink, stencils, photography expenses and all
other direct supplies utilized in printing and production of newsletters.
      Official expenses outside the District of Columbia
      Each Member will be entitled to an amount not to exceed $2,000 each
 session of Congress for official expenses incurred outside the District
 of Colunbia. Official expenses are ordinary and necessary business expenses
 allorable under the Internal Revenue Service Code and Regulations.
      Stationery
      Each Member will be allowed $6,500 each session of Congress for the
 purchase of stationery and other supplies for official purposes from the
 House Office Supply Service. Each Member may withdraw a sum not to exceed
 $1.00 in carh from the stationery allowance each session of Congress,
B-145492


     Eq£uipment lease

     Each Member will be entitled to an allowance of $9,000 each session
of Congress to lease electrical and mechanical equipment. A Member may
also elect to have up to $3,000 of the clerk-hire allowance used each
session for equipment leasing.
     Postage
     The Clerk of the House of Representatives will be required to furnish
a Member, upon request, U.S. airmail and special delivery stamps in an
amount not to exceed $211 each session of Congress.
     Members may also mail certain matter by use of a frarnk--their auto-
graphic or facsimile signature--without prepayment of postage or other
indicia. There is nlo dolla-, limitation on Member's use of the franking
privilege but only certain material may be mailed under the frank. The
zranking privilege is discussed in more detail later in this report.
Variable amount allowances
     The amounts for the ether allowances included in the pool vary based
on criteria established by the Committee on House Administration.
     Travel allowance for Members and employees
     between Washington, D.C., and home districts
     A Member and employees in a Member's office may be reimbursed for
travel between Washington, D.C., and a Member's district during each
session of Congress. The amount of the travel allowance included in
the pool is 64 times the mileage between the District of Columbia and
the furthest point in a Member's district, according to the Rand McNally
Standard Highway Guide, plus 10 percent multiplied by the applicable
mileage rate. In no case shall the allowance be less than $2,250. The
following rates per mile apply-
Distance between Washington, D.C.,
      and Member's district                              Mileage rate

      Under 500 miles                                      $0.15
      At least 500 but under 750 miles                       .14
      At least 750 but unde 1,030 miles                      .13
      At least 1,000 but under 1,750 miles                   .12
      At least 1,750 but under 2,250 miles                   .11
      At least 2,250 but under 2,500 miles                   .10
      At least 2,500 but under 3,000 miles                   .09
      3,000 miles or over                                    .08



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B-145492


     For example, if the distance 'between Washington, D,C,, and the furthest
point in a Member's district is 2,624 miles. the amount of the Member's
allowance will be $16,623 (2,624 + 262 X $,09 = $259.74 X 64),
     Telephone and telegraph
     The amount of the allowance will be the equivalent of 15,000 minutes
times the highest long-distance rate per minute from the District of
Columbia to the Member's district,
     A Member may elect to use WATS 0fide Area Telephone Service) or similar
service in his or her Washington office, This type of phone service, which
is billed at a fixed monthly rate, permits outgoing calls to be made to
the Member's district toll free, If WATS or similar service is used the
aminxmt of the Member's allowance will be reduced by one-half and the cost
of the WATS line paid for by the Clerk of the House out of the contingent
fund of the House. In no case, however, will the amount of the telephone
and telegraph allowance be less than $6,000 or $3,000 if WATS or similar
service is used.
     For example, if the highest long distance rate is $1.10 per minute
the amount of the Member's allowance will be $16,500 or $8,250 if the
Member elects to use WATS.
     District office rental.
     Each Mlember will be entitled to suitable office space in thL Member's
district. The Member may lease commnercial office space or obtain Federal
office space from the General Services Administration (GSA), In either
case the amount of the Member's allowance will be 1,500 times the highest
square foot :ate charged by GSA to Federal agencies in a Member's district.
     For example, if the highest JSA rate charged in a Member's district
is $9,47 per square foot, the Member's allowance will be $14,205.
     Members having Federal or conimercial office space on January 3, 1977,
whose rental fees are in excess of their allowance under the new regulations
will only be charged an amount equal to the allowance. The Clerk of the
House will pay the balance from the contingent fund of the House until
January 3, 1978.
CONTINUING ALLOWANCES
Purchased office equipment
     The Clerk of the House of Representatives is authorized to purchase
electrical and mechanical equipment for Member's use in their Washington




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B-145492


offices. The total value (cost less depreciation determined on a 10-year
straight line basis) of purchased equipment in use in a Member's office
will be limited to $5,500. Mlorn out cr obsolete equipment may be replaced
and the old equipment must be disposed of through the General Services
Administration,
bistrict office furnishings
      Eac. Member will be entitled to have the General Services Administration
outfit no more than three offices in the Member's district with office
equipment, carpeting and draperies, The total cost of these furnishings
cannot exceed $27,000. Worn out or obsolete items may be replaced and the
old items must be disposed of through the General Services Adminiscration.
OTHER SERVICES AND PRrVILEGES

Furniture and furnishings in Washington, D.C., office
     Each Member is entitled to have his Washington, D.C., office provided
with furniture, carpets, and furnishings. These items are supplied by the
Clerk of the House upon request of the Member.
Franking privileges
     Members may transmit certain matt,-r through the mail by use of a
frank-.their autographic or facsimile signature--without prepayment of
postage or other indicia. There is no dollar limitation on Members'
use of the franking privilege. A lump sum appropriation is made to the
legislative branch for franked mail service and paid to the Postal Service.
Items included as franked mail are
      (1) matter, not exceeding four poundc in weigait, upon official
          or departmental business, to a Government official;
      (2) correspondence not exceeding four ounces in weight, upon
          official business to any person;
      (3)   all public documents printed by order of Congress;
      (4)   the Congressional Record, or any part thereof, or speeches
            or reports therein contained; and
      (5) seeds and agricultur.al reports emanating from the Department
          of Agriculture.
B-,145492


Printing services
     Menbers may obtain printing services from any source. The House of
RPepresentatives, however, has a Majority printing clerk and a Minority
printing clerk. These clerks operate private commercial printing
corporations which provide printing services to Members at a fee. The
corporations furnish the equipment, s l--- , and materials for the
printing services, however, the House provides the corporations space
and utility services without charge.
     The Publications Distribution Service run by the Doorkeeper of the
House provides a free wrapping and distribution service to Members for
bulk mailings and official publications. For example, a Member can have
a newsletter folded, inserted in envelopes, and delivered for mailing,
free of charge.
Recording studio services
     The House operates a recording studio which provides radio, video,
and motion picture facilities for the use of Members. Members have the
option of using this studio or a commercial studio to make recordings or
films, The House recording studio operates through a revolving fund.
Members are billed for services on the basis of fixed fees intended to
recover the revolving fund operating costs; however, costs for space,
utilities, and personnel are paid through appropriated funds and are not
included as revolving fund costs.


      We will be pleased to discuss with you the material presented in
 this report, if you so desire.
                                   Sincerely yours,

                                (RSGNED)ELMER B. STAATS

                                   Comptroller General
                                   of the United States

 Enclosure




                                    9
ENCLOSURE



                      PERSONAL BENEFITS AND COURrESES
                            AVAILABLE TO MEMBERS
                       OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

Tax benefit--deduction for living expenses
                                                              ax purposes of
     Each Member is allowed a deduction for Federal inec,,l. ..
up to $3,000 for actual living expenses incurred while away from his
congressional district.
Medical care
     Members are provided annual physical examinations, innoculations,
emergency medical care, medicine, X-rays, laboratory services, and physio-
therapy services through the Office of the Attending Physician without
charge. The Office will also arrange  consultation services for Members
with Walter Reed Army Hospital, Bethesda Naval Hospital, or private
physicians. The Office of the Attending Physician is financed through
legislative branch appropriations.
     Members are also entitled for a fee to receive medical and surgical
services at various Government hospitals. Fees are established by the
responsible Government agencies.
 Parking privileges
      Members are provided free preferential parking at airports in the
 Washington, D.C., area.

 Death benefit gratuity to survivors
                                                                      a
      The House of Representatives customarily appropriates funds for
 payment equal to 1 year's salary to the survivors of : deceased Member.
 Funeral expense payments
      Under rules and regulations of the Committee on House Administration
 such sums as may be necessary are to be paid out of the contingent  fund of
 the House to defray the funeral expenses of a deceased Member  and to  defray
                                                         of a  deceased
 the expenses of the widow or widower and minor children burial.
 Member incurred in attending a Member's funeral rites and
 Employment benefits
       Members are entitled to various benefits similar to those provided other
  Federal employees. The cost of these benefits, which include retirement,
  health insurance, and life insurance are shared by the Member and by the
  House.
ENCLOSURE                                                        ENCLOSURE



     Conditions concerning Civil Service retirement benefits are prescribed
in Title 5 cf the United States Code.
     )imbers who elect to be covered under the Civil Service retirement
system have 8 percent of their basic pay deducted from their pay; this is
matched by contributions front the House to the Civii Service retirement
fund of a like amount
     Health insuranc.    ivailable to Members on a voluntary basis under
the Federal Employees nenefits Program. Participating Members and the
House each pay a portion of applicable health insurance premiums. The
maxium monthly payment by the House in 1977 will be $53,50, but no more
than 75 percent of the total cost of any insurance plan.
     Group life insurance coverage under the Federal Employees' Group Life
Insurance Act is automatic for Members effective from date of taking
office, if not declined. Basic coverage for Members is $47,000 at a
monthly cost to them of $36.16. The remaining premium cost of $18.08 a
month is paid by the House.
     Additional insurance coverage (optional) of $10,000 is available. The
additional premium is determined by the age of the Member. The full cost
for optional insurance - borne by the Member.




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