Justice and Law Enforcement:
Request for Relief From Indebtedness
B-199542, Nov 7, 1980
Relief from responsibility was requested on behalf of two finance officers for a shortage caused by a duplicate payment. A check was issued for wages against one of the officer's accounts. A replacement check was later issued on the basis of the employee's claim that he did not receive the first check. Both checks were endorsed and cashed and the employee's whereabouts are unknown, so that the money cannot be recovered. The Army determined that the improper check payment was not the result of bad faith or lack of due care on the part of either finance officer. A finance and accounting officer is authorized to issue a duplicate check upon receipt of a statement by the payee that he has not received the original and that he requests that payment be stopped on it. Because of the delay in submitting the request for relief, the written evidence that the regulation was complied with is no longer available. Because of the application of the operation of the statute of limitations, the account of the finance officers must be regarded as settled. GAO authority to settle the accounts of an accountable officer and grant or deny relief is limited to a 3-year period. The account for 1973 must be regarded as settled. GAO requires a report of irregularities within 2 years after the date the acounts are made available to GAO for audit. In this case, there was an unacceptable delay in reporting to GAO as well as in pursuing aggressive action to collect from the payee.