A-19183, SEPTEMBER 2, 1927, 7 COMP. GEN. 184

A-19183: Sep 2, 1927

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DOES NOT MAKE THE GOVERNMENT THE INSURER OF ALL THE PERSONAL EFFECTS OF AN EMPLOYEE IF DESTROYED WHILE HE IS ON DUTY OR IN THE EMPLOY OF THE UNITED STATES. ROBE WERE DESTROYED BY FIRE WHILE STORED IN A TENT BELONGING TO THE FOREST SERVICE AND WHILE THE OWNER WAS ON DUTY ELSEWHERE. REIMBURSEMENT FOR THE LOSS THEREOF IS NOT AUTHORIZED. WHEREIN CREDIT WAS DISALLOWED FOR THE SUM OF $40 PAID BY HIM ON VOUCHER 6778. SAID TENT AND EQUIPMENT BEING DESTROYED BY FIRE WHILE THE EMPLOYEE WAS ON DUTY ELSEWHERE. HEATON WAS REQUIRED UNDER THE TERMS OF HIS EMPLOYMENT TO FURNISH EQUIPMENT OF THE KIND DESTROYED AND THAT THERE WAS AN INFORMAL UNDERSTANDING THAT HE WOULD BE REIMBURSED IN SOME AMOUNT IF SAID EQUIPMENT WAS DESTROYED.

A-19183, SEPTEMBER 2, 1927, 7 COMP. GEN. 184

PROPERTY, PRIVATE - DESTROYED IN THE FOREST SERVICE THE ACT OF MARCH 4, 1913, 37 STAT. 843, AUTHORIZING REIMBURSEMENT OF LOSSES IN CONNECTION WITH FIRE FIGHTING, ETC., DOES NOT MAKE THE GOVERNMENT THE INSURER OF ALL THE PERSONAL EFFECTS OF AN EMPLOYEE IF DESTROYED WHILE HE IS ON DUTY OR IN THE EMPLOY OF THE UNITED STATES, AND WHERE A BED, PACK BOX, AND ROBE WERE DESTROYED BY FIRE WHILE STORED IN A TENT BELONGING TO THE FOREST SERVICE AND WHILE THE OWNER WAS ON DUTY ELSEWHERE, REIMBURSEMENT FOR THE LOSS THEREOF IS NOT AUTHORIZED.

DECISION BY COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL, SEPTEMBER 2, 1927:

A. H. COUSINS, DISTRICT FISCAL AGENT, DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, HAS REQUESTED REVIEW OF SETTLEMENT NO. K-6080-A, DATED JUNE 22, 1927, WHEREIN CREDIT WAS DISALLOWED FOR THE SUM OF $40 PAID BY HIM ON VOUCHER 6778, FOR THE QUARTER ENDING SEPTEMBER 30, 1926, TO PAUL S. HEATON, AN EMPLOYEE OF THE FOREST SERVICE, AS REIMBURSEMENT FOR THE LOSS SUSTAINED BY THE LATTER THROUGH THE DESTRUCTION OF PERSONAL EQUIPMENT CONSISTING OF BED, PACK BOX, AND ROBE WHILE STORED IN A TENT OWNED BY THE FOREST SERVICE, SAID TENT AND EQUIPMENT BEING DESTROYED BY FIRE WHILE THE EMPLOYEE WAS ON DUTY ELSEWHERE.

IT APPEARS THAT MR. HEATON WAS REQUIRED UNDER THE TERMS OF HIS EMPLOYMENT TO FURNISH EQUIPMENT OF THE KIND DESTROYED AND THAT THERE WAS AN INFORMAL UNDERSTANDING THAT HE WOULD BE REIMBURSED IN SOME AMOUNT IF SAID EQUIPMENT WAS DESTROYED. THERE WAS NO VALID CONTRACT PROVIDING FOR SUCH REIMBURSEMENT AND THE AMOUNT OF $41 IS THAT DETERMINED BY THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE TO BE THE PROPER MEASURE OF DAMAGES FOR THE LOSS SUSTAINED. THE AUTHORITY CITED FOR PAYMENT OF THE AMOUNT IN QUESTION IS THE PROVISION IN THE ACT OF MARCH 4, 1913, 37 STAT. 843, READING AS FOLLOWS:

THAT HEREAFTER THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE IS AUTHORIZED TO REIMBURSE OWNERS OF HORSES, VEHICLES, AND OTHER EQUIPMENT LOST, DAMAGED,OR DESTROYED WHILE BEING USED FOR NECESSARY FIRE FIGHTING, TRAIL, OR OFFICIAL BUSINESS, SUCH REIMBURSEMENT TO BE MADE FROM ANY AVAILABLE FUNDS IN THE APPROPRIATION TO WHICH THE HIRE OF SUCH EQUIPMENT IS PROPERLY CHARGEABLE.

IT HAS UNIFORMLY BEEN HELD, BOTH BY THE ACCOUNTING OFFICERS OF THE TREASURY AND THIS OFFICE, THAT WHILE THIS STATUTE AUTHORIZES REIMBURSEMENT FOR EQUIPMENT LOST, DAMAGED, OR DESTROYED WHILE IT WAS BEING USED ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS, IT DOES NOT MAKE THE GOVERNMENT THE INSURER OF ALL OF THE PERSONAL PROPERTY OF THE EMPLOYEE IF DESTROYED WHILE SAID EMPLOYEE IS ON DUTY OR IN THE EMPLOY OF THE UNITED STATES. IN OTHER WORDS, TO ENTITLE THE EMPLOYEE TO REIMBURSEMENT FOR THE LOSS, DESTRUCTION OF, OR DAMAGE TO, HIS PROPERTY SAID LOSS, DAMAGE, OR DESTRUCTION MUST HAVE BEEN THE RESULT OF, OR CAUSED BY, ITS USE IN WORK FOR THE GOVERNMENT. NO SUCH CONDITION EXISTS IN THE INSTANT CASE. THE EQUIPMENT HERE INVOLVED WAS NOT BEING USED IN CARRYING ON THE GOVERNMENT WORK, NEITHER WAS THE FIRE AND CONSEQUENT LOSS CAUSED BY THE GOVERNMENT OR ITS AGENTS. THE FIRE WAS NOT A FOREST FIRE BUT WAS THE RESULT OF SOME CAUSE WITHIN THE TENT. THE EQUIPMENT WAS REQUIRED FOR THE COMFORT OF THE EMPLOYEE AND THE TERMS OF EMPLOYMENT PROVIDED THAT THE EMPLOYEE SHOULD FURNISH SUCH EQUIPMENT. SEE 21 COMP. DEC. 43. FURTHERMORE, IN AUTHORIZING PAYMENT OF CLAIMS UNDER THE ACT OF MARCH 4, 1913, SUPRA, THE LAW SPECIFICALLY PROVIDES THAT SUCH PAYMENTS SHALL BE MADE FROM FUNDS AVAILABLE IN THE APPROPRIATION TO WHICH THE HIRE OF THE EQUIPMENT DESTROYED IS CHARGEABLE, AND NO SUCH HIRING OR APPROPRIATION CHARGEABLE APPEARS IN THE INSTANT MATTER, THE EMPLOYEE BEING REQUIRED UNDER THE TERMS OF HIS EMPLOYMENT TO PROVIDE HIMSELF SUCH EQUIPMENT FOR HIS OWN USE.

THE PRESENT CASE IS DISTINGUISHED FROM THAT FORMING THE BASIS OF DECISION OF NOVEMBER 5, 1926, 5 COMP. GEN. 326, AS IN THAT CASE THE EMPLOYEE WAS NOT REQUIRED UNDER THE TERMS OF HIS EMPLOYMENT TO FURNISH THE HORSE, FOR THE HIRE OF WHICH A FORMAL CONTRACT HAD BEEN ENTERED INTO WHEREIN IT WAS AGREED THAT THE GOVERNMENT WOULD PAY TO THE OWNER THE ASSESSED VALUATION OF THE HORSE IF IT SHOULD BE KILLED UNDER CERTAIN CONDITIONS DURING THE PERIOD OF HIRE.