At the urging of Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4), the United States House of Representatives will now require Members of Congress who travel on official business as part of a congressional delegation (CODEL) to return unused per diem funds to the United States Treasury. No clear procedure for remitting unused per diem funds was in place prior to this change.
"We need to tighten up the rules, accounting, and spending throughout government, and that needs to start with the United States Congress. Upon returning from my trip to Afghanistan early this year, I realized clear rules were not in place to handle these matters as they pertain to Congressional travel. I personally raised concerns with the Speaker regarding the lack of rules and am gratified that that they were taken seriously," said Himes. "These new rules will help ensure the taxpayers aren't footing the bill for any member or staff's personal expenses--we need to avoid even the appearance of impropriety."
Late last year, Himes participated in a fact-finding trip to Afghanistan in association with oversight related to his position on the Homeland Security Committee. Due to the fact that the trip was conducted by the U.S. Military, Himes did not incur many normal expenses associated CODEL travel, and he returned with nearly $400 in unspent per diem allowance and no clear instructions as to where and how to return unspent funds. Determining the process for and remitting the funds took over a month, and it became clear that no entity was charged with accounting for these types of remittances. Himes immediately contacted House leadership and began working to change the rule.
"Jim Himes is committed to changing the way businesses is done here in Washington," said Congressman Chris Van Hollen (MD-8). "I appreciate the attention he has given this matter, both in terms of improving accountability for Members of Congress and saving taxpayer dollars."