A-13495, JUNE 9, 1926, 5 COMP. GEN. 967

A-13495: Jun 9, 1926

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Edda Emmanuelli Perez
(202) 512-2853
EmmanuelliPerezE@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

LIMITATION OF AUTHORITY THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE LIABILITY OF INDIVIDUALS AND THE GOVERNMENT WITH RESPECT TO THEIR AGENTS IS THAT THE FORMER ARE LIABLE TO THE EXTENT OF THE POWER THEY HAVE APPARENTLY GIVEN THEIR AGENTS. WHILE THE GOVERNMENT IS LIABLE ONLY TO THE EXTENT OF THE POWER IT HAS ACTUALLY GIVEN ITS AGENTS BY LAW. AN OFFICER IN CHARGE OF A NAVY COMMISSARY STORE IS WITHOUT AUTHORITY TO PURCHASE ARTICLES NOT AUTHORIZED TO BE PURCHASED FOR SALE IN COMMISSARY STORES. CONTRACTORS DOING BUSINESS WITH THE GOVERNMENT ARE CHARGED WITH SUCH NOTICE. THERE IS NO LEGAL OBLIGATION ON THE PART OF THE GOVERNMENT TO PAY FOR SUCH UNAUTHORIZED ARTICLES PURCHASED BY AN OFFICER. TOASTERS ALLEGED TO HAVE BEEN SHIPPED TO THE COMMISSARY STORE.

A-13495, JUNE 9, 1926, 5 COMP. GEN. 967

CONTRACTS, UNAUTHORIZED PURCHASES - NAVY COMMISSARY STORES - OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES, LIMITATION OF AUTHORITY THE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE LIABILITY OF INDIVIDUALS AND THE GOVERNMENT WITH RESPECT TO THEIR AGENTS IS THAT THE FORMER ARE LIABLE TO THE EXTENT OF THE POWER THEY HAVE APPARENTLY GIVEN THEIR AGENTS, WHILE THE GOVERNMENT IS LIABLE ONLY TO THE EXTENT OF THE POWER IT HAS ACTUALLY GIVEN ITS AGENTS BY LAW, AND THE UNAUTHORIZED ACTS OF SUCH AGENTS CAN NOT ESTOP THE GOVERNMENT FROM ASSERTING THEIR INVALIDITY. AN OFFICER IN CHARGE OF A NAVY COMMISSARY STORE IS WITHOUT AUTHORITY TO PURCHASE ARTICLES NOT AUTHORIZED TO BE PURCHASED FOR SALE IN COMMISSARY STORES, AND CONTRACTORS DOING BUSINESS WITH THE GOVERNMENT ARE CHARGED WITH SUCH NOTICE. THERE IS NO LEGAL OBLIGATION ON THE PART OF THE GOVERNMENT TO PAY FOR SUCH UNAUTHORIZED ARTICLES PURCHASED BY AN OFFICER.

DECISION BY COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL, JUNE 9, 1926:

NORTH COAST ELECTRIC CO. REQUESTED FEBRUARY 26, 1926, REVIEW OF SETTLEMENT NO. 062580, DATED FEBRUARY 16, 1926, DISALLOWING ITS CLAIM FOR $68.42 FOR ELECTRIC PERCOLATORS, IRONS, AND TOASTERS ALLEGED TO HAVE BEEN SHIPPED TO THE COMMISSARY STORE, NAVY YARD, PUGET SOUND, WASH., IN DECEMBER, 1923, AND IN MARCH AND APRIL, 1924, PER ITS SEVERAL INVOICES, ONE FOR EACH ARTICLE, ON ORDERS OF THE OFFICER IN CHARGE OF THE STORE.

THE CLAIM IS ONE OF SEVERAL THAT, FOR DIRECT SETTLEMENT, WERE REFERRED TO THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE BY THE PAYMASTER GENERAL OF THE NAVY WITH THE STATEMENT THAT THE MATERIAL COVERED BY THE INVOICES WAS ORDERED BY THE OFFICER IN CHARGE OF THE COMMISSARY STORE ON THE USUAL FORM AS OTHER PURCHASES ARE ORDERED; THAT THE ITEMS, HOWEVER, COVERED BY THE INVOICES WERE NOT ON ANY APPROVED REQUISITION AND ARE ITEMS NOT AUTHORIZED TO BE PURCHASED FOR SALE IN COMMISSARY STORES; THAT THE SAID OFFICER IN CHARGE OF THE COMMISSARY STORE DESERTED HIS POST OF DUTY AND HAS NOT BEEN APPREHENDED; AND THAT A BOARD OF INVESTIGATION WAS ORDERED TO CONVENE FOR THE PURPOSE OF INVESTIGATING AND REPORTING ON THESE UNAUTHORIZED PURCHASES.

FROM THE REPORT OF SAID BOARD IT APPEARS THAT OF THE INVOICES SUBMITTED BY THE NORTH COAST ELECTRIC CO. AS UNPAID IT WAS FOUND THAT THE COPIES OF ORDERS ON FILE COVERING TWO OF THE INVOICES SHOWED IN EACH CASE THE NAME OF THE INDIVIDUAL FOR WHOM THE PURCHASE WAS MADE AND BORE NOTATION OF PAYMENT, BUT THAT FOR THE INVOICES CONSTITUTING THE PRESENT CLAIM, AMOUNTING TO $68.42, NO COPIES OF THE ORDERS WERE FOUND ON FILE, NOR ANY RECORD SHOWING FOR WHOM THE MATERIAL WAS PURCHASED, BY WHOM RECEIVED, OR WHETHER OR NOT THE AMOUNTS INVOLVED WERE PAID TO A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE COMMISSARY STORE.

CLAIMANT ALLEGES THAT THE ORDERS WHICH IT HOLDS FOR THE PURCHASES HERE IN QUESTION DO NOT INDICATE THAT THEY WERE FOR INDIVIDUALS. CLAIMANT WAS BOUND, HOWEVER, TO INQUIRE AS TO THE AUTHORITY OF THE OFFICER TO MAKE THE PURCHASES, AND INASMUCH AS THE ORDERS WERE NOT ON APPROVAL REQUISITIONS AND WERE NOT SUCH ARTICLES AS WERE AUTHORIZED TO BE SOLD IN COMMISSARY STORES, THERE WAS SUFFICIENT NOTICE TO THE CLAIMANT THAT THE OFFICER HAD NO AUTHORITY TO MAKE THE PURCHASES. PUBLIC MONEYS MAY NOT BE EXPENDED FOR GOODS NOT DELIVERED TO THE UNITED STATES OR FROM WHICH IT DERIVED NO BENEFIT. SECTION 3648, REVISED STATUTES.

THERE IS A WELL-RECOGNIZED DISTINCTION BETWEEN INDIVIDUALS AND THE GOVERNMENT WITH RESPECT TO THEIR AGENTS; THE FORMER ARE LIABLE TO THE EXTENT OF THE POWER THEY HAVE APPARENTLY GIVEN THEIR AGENTS, WHILE THE GOVERNMENT IS LIABLE ONLY TO THE EXTENT OF THE POWER IT HAS ACTUALLY GIVEN ITS AGENTS. IN OTHER WORDS, THE GOVERNMENT'S AGENTS OR OFFICERS HAVE ONLY LIMITED POWERS AND CERTAIN PRESCRIBED DISCRETION, AND PERSONS DEALING WITH SUCH AGENTS OR OFFICERS MUST, IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES, SEE FOR THEMSELVES THAT SUCH AUTHORITY IS NOT EXCEEDED IN THE TRANSACTION INVOLVED. THE UNAUTHORIZED ACTS OF SUCH AGENTS CAN NOT ESTOP THE GOVERNMENT FROM ASSERTING THEIR INVALIDITY.