Diplomats in Athens, Malta and Hong Kong might soon have to say sayonara to the rest and relaxation benefits they were getting for enduring hardship postings thanks to a State Department Inspector General report which found the conditions at those locations no longer justified the benefit.
After inspecting the U.S. embassies in Athens and Valletta, Malta and the consulate in Hong Kong, inspectors found that those outposts hadn’t justified their eligibility for rest and recuperation (R&R) travel benefits in years, according to a new IG report. It has been six years since the Consulate General Hong Kong justified their R&R status; ten years for Embassy Athens; and 20 years since Embassy Valletta did the same.
Foreign service employees at certain outposts with difficult conditions are eligible for R&R travel benefits. R&R, the IG report notes, “is indeed an allowance and is used to lure employees to bid on hardship posts.”
During the IG inspection, the office determined that the “conditions for which Embassies Athens and Valletta were approved for R&R benefits no longer exist.” They recommended that R&R be discontinued at both locations, saving more than $180,000 per year.
Hong Kong’s original conditions might have changed, and the IG recommended that the consulate submit justification for R&R benefits. But the inspectors noted that they’ll have to explain why Hong Kong was listed as a relief destination for State Department employees at other embassies.
“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,” they wrote. That’s diplo-speak for you don’t need vacation from a vacation destination.