A-19761, SEPTEMBER 13, 1927, 7 COMP. GEN. 201

A-19761: Sep 13, 1927

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INVOLVES A QUESTION OF POLICY THAT IS NO LONGER OPEN FOR ADMINISTRATIVE CONSIDERATION. UNLESS IMMEDIATE DELIVERY OF THE SUPPLIES OR PERFORMANCE OF THE SERVICE IS REQUIRED BY A PUBLIC EXIGENCY. WHEREIN CREDIT WAS DISALLOWED FOR PAYMENTS IN THE SUM OF $325.14. THE DISALLOWANCE WAS MADE BECAUSE OF FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH SECTION 3709. THE CIRCUMSTANCES ATTENDING THE PURCHASE OF THE TELEPHONES AND EQUIPMENT ARE STATED IN YOUR REQUEST FOR REVIEW OF THE SETTLEMENT AS FOLLOWS: THE PURCHASES IN QUESTION COVER CERTAIN TELEPHONE EQUIPMENT. PRACTICALLY ALL OF THIS MILEAGE AND NECESSARY TELEPHONE INSTRUMENTS ARE MAINTAINED BY THE RANGER PERSONNEL WHO ARE ALSO EXPECTED AND REQUIRED TO BE PROFICIENT IN MANY OTHER RESPECTS.

A-19761, SEPTEMBER 13, 1927, 7 COMP. GEN. 201

ADVERTISING - STANDARDIZATION OF EQUIPMENT STANDARDIZATION OF EQUIPMENT, AS AGAINST ITS PROCUREMENT UNDER COMPETITIVE BIDDING, INVOLVES A QUESTION OF POLICY THAT IS NO LONGER OPEN FOR ADMINISTRATIVE CONSIDERATION, THE CONGRESS HAVING DEFINITELY DETERMINED THE MATTER BY THE ENACTMENT OF THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 3709 OF THE REVISED STATUTES REQUIRING THAT ALL PURCHASES AND CONTRACTS FOR SUPPLIES OR SERVICES, IN ANY OF THE DEPARTMENTS OF THE GOVERNMENT, EXCEPT FOR PERSONAL SERVICES, SHALL BE MADE BY ADVERTISING A SUFFICIENT TIME PREVIOUSLY FOR PROPOSALS RESPECTING THE SAME, UNLESS IMMEDIATE DELIVERY OF THE SUPPLIES OR PERFORMANCE OF THE SERVICE IS REQUIRED BY A PUBLIC EXIGENCY.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL TO THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE, SEPTEMBER 13, 1927:

THERE HAS BEEN RECEIVED YOUR LETTER OF AUGUST 8, 1927, REQUESTING REVIEW OF SETTLEMENT K-7379-A, DATED APRIL 29, 1927, OF THE OCTOBER 1 TO DECEMBER 31, 1925, ACCOUNTS OF A. ZAPPONE, DISBURSING CLERK, DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, WHEREIN CREDIT WAS DISALLOWED FOR PAYMENTS IN THE SUM OF $325.14, MADE ON VOUCHERS 79162 AND 79163, DATED OCTOBER 24, 1925, TO THE WESTERN ELECTRIC CO., FOR TELEPHONES AND TELEPHONE EQUIPMENT FURNISHED THE FOREST SERVICE, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE. THE DISALLOWANCE WAS MADE BECAUSE OF FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH SECTION 3709, REVISED STATUTES.

THE CIRCUMSTANCES ATTENDING THE PURCHASE OF THE TELEPHONES AND EQUIPMENT ARE STATED IN YOUR REQUEST FOR REVIEW OF THE SETTLEMENT AS FOLLOWS:

THE PURCHASES IN QUESTION COVER CERTAIN TELEPHONE EQUIPMENT. THE FOREST SERVICE HAS SOMETHING IN EXCESS OF 33,000 MILES OF TELEPHONE LINE THROUGHOUT THE NATIONAL FORESTS. PRACTICALLY ALL OF THIS MILEAGE AND NECESSARY TELEPHONE INSTRUMENTS ARE MAINTAINED BY THE RANGER PERSONNEL WHO ARE ALSO EXPECTED AND REQUIRED TO BE PROFICIENT IN MANY OTHER RESPECTS, I.E., TIMBER MANAGEMENT, GRAZING ADMINISTRATION, FIRE PROTECTION, TRAIL CONSTRUCTION, PUBLIC RELATION ACTIVITIES, ETC. EFFICIENT TELEPHONE SYSTEMS ARE OF PRIME IMPORTANCE IN THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE NATIONAL FORESTS, PARTICULARLY IN THE MATTER OF FIRE PROTECTION. THE IMPORTANCE OF STANDARDIZING TELEPHONE INSTRUMENTS AND EQUIPMENT AND THEREBY SIMPLIFYING THE RANGER'S PROBLEM OF MAINTENANCE, IS BELIEVED TO BE PERFECTLY OBVIOUS; AND THE SAVING THEREBY EFFECTED BY THE GOVERNMENT PATENT.

THERE ARE IN USE IN THE FOREST SERVICE VARIOUS MAKES OF TELEPHONE INSTRUMENTS, INCLUDING THOSE SUPPLIED BY THE WESTERN ELECTRIC COMPANY, KELLOGG SWITCHBOARD AND SUPPLY COMPANY, UNIVERSAL HIGH POWER TELEPHONE COMPANY, AND GENERAL ELECTRIC COMPANY. ON INDIVIDUAL FORESTS THERE IS A TENDENCY TOWARDS STANDARDIZATION OF EQUIPMENT USED ON A PARTICULAR FOREST. IF TELEPHONES AND EQUIPMENT OF DIFFERENT TYPES WERE USED ON THE SAME FOREST, IT WOULD REQUIRE THE PURCHASE AND MAINTENANCE OF A LARGE STOCK OF REPAIR PARTS, SINCE SUCH PARTS ARE NOT INTERCHANGEABLE BETWEEN DIFFERENT MAKES OF TELEPHONE INSTRUMENTS. THE MOST SERIOUS CONSIDERATION, HOWEVER, IS THE FACT THAT THE RANGERS CAN, WITH A MINIMUM OUTLAY OF TIME AND EXPENSE, BE TRAINED TO KEEP IN REPAIR THE INSTRUMENTS IF THEY ARE OF THE SAME OR SIMILAR MAKES. IF THE MAKES VARY TO ANY DEGREE IT REQUIRES THE SERVICES OF EXPERTMECHANICIANS. IT IS NOT PRACTICABLE OR EVEN POSSIBLE TO HAVE A CORPS OF TELEPHONE REPAIRMEN GO OVER THE LINES. THAT MUST BE PART OF THE RANGERS' DUTIES ELSE THE ENTIRE SYSTEM OF FIRE PATROL WILL FALL DOWN. BY CONTINUED USE OF CERTAIN EQUIPMENT, FOREST OFFICERS HAVE BECOME FAMILIAR AND ACCUSTOMED TO THE LOCATION OF THE APPARATUS INSIDE THE SETS AND ARE FAMILIAR WITH THE CIRCUITS AND REPAIR PARTS WHICH ARE NEEDED FOR THE INSTRUMENTS THAT HAVE BEEN ADOPTED AS STANDARD IN THEIR DISTRICTS. LAST YEAR THE DEPARTMENT CONSIDERED THE QUESTION OF HAVING TELEPHONE INSTRUMENTS AND EQUIPMENT PLACED ON THE GENERAL SUPPLY SCHEDULE, AND AFTER MORE OR LESS CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE DISTRICT OFFICERS, IT WAS DECIDED AGAINST THIS STEP, LARGELY BECAUSE ONE DISTRICT OR FOREST HAD STANDARDIZED ON A PARTICULAR MAKE OF INSTRUMENTS AND OTHER DISTRICTS OR FORESTS ON OTHER MAKES. AT THIS TIME, HOWEVER, ALL OFFICERS IN CHARGE WERE PUT ON NOTICE THAT THEY WOULD BE HELD ENTIRELY ACCOUNTABLE FOR ANY FAILURE TO OBSERVE THE $50 LIMIT IN THE PURCHASE OF TELEPHONE INSTRUMENTS IN THE ABSENCE OF COMPETITIVE BIDS. THE EXPENDITURES UNDER SUSPENSION WERE MADE PRIOR TO THE ISSUANCE OF THE LETTER OF INSTRUCTIONS IN THIS RESPECT, DATED JANUARY 22, 1927. MOST OF THE DEPARTMENT'S PURCHASES OF TELEPHONE INSTRUMENTS ARE NOW FOR THE PURPOSE OF REPLACEMENT AND SUCH PURCHASES ARE IN SMALL AMOUNTS.

SECTION 3709, REVISED STATUTES, PROVIDES THAT ALL PURCHASES AND CONTRACTS FOR SUPPLIES IN ANY OF THE DEPARTMENTS OF THE GOVERNMENT, EXCEPT FOR PERSONAL SERVICES AND EXCEPT IN CASES OF EMERGENCIES, SHALL BE MADE AFTER ADVERTISING A SUFFICIENT TIME PREVIOUSLY FOR PROPOSALS RESPECTING SAME. IT HAS BEEN FREQUENTLY HELD BY THE COURTS AND BY THE ACCOUNTING OFFICERS OF THE UNITED STATES THAT THE PROVISIONS OF THE STATUTE ARE DESIGNED TO GIVE ALL MANUFACTURERS, ETC., EQUAL RIGHT TO COMPETE FOR GOVERNMENT BUSINESS; TO SECURE TO THE GOVERNMENT THE BENEFITS WHICH FLOW FROM COMPETITION; TO PREVENT UNJUST FAVORITISM BY REPRESENTATIVES OF THE GOVERNMENT IN MAKING PURCHASES ON PUBLIC ACCOUNTS; AND TO PREVENT COLLUSION AND FRAUD IN PROCURING SUPPLIES OR LETTING CONTRACTS. UNLESS THE PURCHASE REPRESENTS AN EXPENDITURE OF $50 OR LESS AND WITHIN THE EXCEPTION CREATED BY THE ACT OF MARCH 1, 1899, 30 STAT. 957, TO SAID SECTION 3709, REVISED STATUTES, ITS PROVISIONS ARE MANDATORY, ITS REQUIREMENTS ARE TO BE STRICTLY OBSERVED, AND NO PROCEDURE AMOUNTING TO NONCOMPLIANCE WITH ITS TERMS IS AUTHORIZED.

THE REASONS ASSIGNED FOR THE PROCEDURE FOLLOWED IN THE MATTER OF THESE PURCHASES AMOUNT TO NOTHING MORE THAN ARGUMENTS IN FAVOR OF STANDARDIZATION AS AGAINST COMPETITION AND INVOLVE QUESTIONS OF POLICY THAT ARE NO LONGER OPEN FOR ADMINISTRATIVE CONSIDERATION, THE CONGRESS HAVING DEFINITELY DETERMINED THE MATTER BY THE ENACTMENT OF THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 3709, REVISED STATUTES. HENCE, THERE IS NO AUTHORITY OF LAW FOR STANDARDIZATION OF EQUIPMENT IN THE FOREST SERVICE, AND THE PROCEDURE FOLLOWED IN EFFECTING THE PURCHASES HERE IN QUESTION WAS ILLEGAL AND UNAUTHORIZED. SEE 5 COMP. GEN. 771, 776, 835 AND 963. HOWEVER, AS THE PURCHASES WERE MADE BEFORE EITHER OF THE CITED DECISIONS WAS RENDERED, AND UNDER AN APPARENT MISUNDERSTANDING OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICERS AS TO THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE LAW, AND IN VIEW OF THE INSTRUCTIONS ISSUED TO CORRECT THE ILLEGAL PRACTICE, THE ITEMS WILL NOT BE FURTHER QUESTIONED IN THE ACCOUNTS OF THE DISBURSING OFFICER.