A-2719, JULY 16, 1924, 4 COMP. GEN. 56

A-2719: Jul 16, 1924

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STALE CLAIMS - PAYMENT BY DISBURSING OFFICERS AS A GENERAL RULE PAYMENTS BY A DISBURSING OFFICER CHARGEABLE AGAINST ANNUAL APPROPRIATIONS SHOULD NOT BE MADE AFTER THREE MONTHS FROM THE CLOSE OF THE FISCAL YEAR IN WHICH THE OBLIGATION WAS INCURRED. YOUR INQUIRY IS BY REASON OF A SUSPENSION IN YOUR ACCOUNTS FOR THE QUARTER ENDED MARCH 31. THE VOUCHER AS PAID CONTAINED NO EXPLANATION AS TO THE DELAY IN MAKING PAYMENT AND WAS SUSPENDED FOR THAT REASON. YOU WERE ADVISED. THAT THE ITEM APPEARED SUCH AS SHOULD HAVE BEEN FORWARDED TO THIS OFFICE FOR DIRECT SETTLEMENT AS A CLAIM. CREDIT FOR THE ITEM AMOUNTING TO $92.31 WILL BE ALLOWED IN YOUR ACCOUNTS. YOU ARE ADVISED THAT GENERALLY PAYMENTS BY A DISBURSING OFFICER SHOULD NOT BE MADE AFTER THREE MONTHS FROM THE CLOSE OF A FISCAL YEAR IN WHICH THE OBLIGATION WAS INCURRED.

A-2719, JULY 16, 1924, 4 COMP. GEN. 56

STALE CLAIMS - PAYMENT BY DISBURSING OFFICERS AS A GENERAL RULE PAYMENTS BY A DISBURSING OFFICER CHARGEABLE AGAINST ANNUAL APPROPRIATIONS SHOULD NOT BE MADE AFTER THREE MONTHS FROM THE CLOSE OF THE FISCAL YEAR IN WHICH THE OBLIGATION WAS INCURRED, UNEXPENDED DISBURSING BALANCES OF ANNUAL APPROPRIATIONS BEING REQUIRED TO BE DEPOSITED WITHIN THAT TIME. PAYMENTS AGAINST APPROPRIATIONS, OTHER THAN ANNUAL APPROPRIATIONS, SHOULD BE MADE BY A DISBURSING OFFICER ONLY WHEN FOR CURRENT OBLIGATIONS FOR FIXED SALARIES, BILLS FOR SUPPLIES PURCHASED AND APPROVED, AND OTHER SIMILAR DEMANDS WHICH DO NOT REQUIRE THE WEIGHING OF EVIDENCE OR THE DETERMINATION OF QUESTIONS OF LAW OR FACT FOR THE ASCERTAINMENT OF THEIR VALIDITY. ANY DOUBT ON THE PART OF A DISBURSING OFFICER AS TO HIS AUTHORITY TO PAY A VOUCHER SHOULD BE RESOLVED IN FAVOR OF SUBMITTING IT FOR DIRECT SETTLEMENT.

ACTING COMPTROLLER GENERAL GINN TO LESLIE CRAMER, SPECIAL DISBURSING AGENT, ALASKAN ENGINEERING COMMISSION, JULY 16, 1924:

CONSIDERATION HAS BEEN GIVEN TO YOUR LETTER OF JANUARY 24, 1924, REQUESTING ADVICE "AS TO THE TIME LIMIT IN PAYMENT OF VOUCHERS AND HOW OLD A VOUCHER SHOULD BE TO BE PRESENTED AS A CLAIM?

YOUR INQUIRY IS BY REASON OF A SUSPENSION IN YOUR ACCOUNTS FOR THE QUARTER ENDED MARCH 31, 1923, OF THE AMOUNT OF VOUCHER NO. 33028, IN FAVOR OF THE PORT OF SEATTLE, THE VOUCHER, PAID BY YOU ON FEBRUARY 6, 1923, COVERING LABOR, SUPERVISION, AND USE OF TRACTOR DURING THE MONTH OF AUGUST, 1917, IN UNLOADING STEEL RAILS SHIPPED FROM GARY, IND., TO SEATTLE, WASH., AS PER GOVERNMENT BILL OF LADING NO. 2241, ISSUED ON JULY 28, 1917. THE VOUCHER AS PAID CONTAINED NO EXPLANATION AS TO THE DELAY IN MAKING PAYMENT AND WAS SUSPENDED FOR THAT REASON, AND YOU WERE ADVISED, IN SUBSTANCE, THAT THE ITEM APPEARED SUCH AS SHOULD HAVE BEEN FORWARDED TO THIS OFFICE FOR DIRECT SETTLEMENT AS A CLAIM, ACCOMPANIED BY A FULL AND DETAILED EXPLANATION. THE EXPLANATION AND DATA SUBMITTED IN REPLY TO THE STATEMENT OF DIFFERENCES HAS ENABLED THIS OFFICE TO CONNECT THE ITEM PAID WITH THE ITEM OF FREIGHT ON THE RAILS PREVIOUSLY PAID TO THE NORTHERN PACIFIC RAILWAY CO. AS PER SETTLEMENT NO. 55510, OF MAY 25, 1918; THEREFORE, CREDIT FOR THE ITEM AMOUNTING TO $92.31 WILL BE ALLOWED IN YOUR ACCOUNTS.

IN ANSWER TO YOUR INQUIRY AS TO THE TIME LIMIT IN MAKING PAYMENT OF VOUCHERS, YOU ARE ADVISED THAT GENERALLY PAYMENTS BY A DISBURSING OFFICER SHOULD NOT BE MADE AFTER THREE MONTHS FROM THE CLOSE OF A FISCAL YEAR IN WHICH THE OBLIGATION WAS INCURRED, UNEXPENDED DISBURSING BALANCES OF ANNUAL APPROPRIATIONS BEING REQUIRED TO BE DEPOSITED WITHIN THAT TIME. SEE TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR NO. 133 OF DECEMBER 15, 1903. THE REQUIREMENTS WITH RESPECT TO OTHER APPROPRIATIONS, SUCH, FOR INSTANCE, AS THE APPROPRIATION FOR THE "CONSTRUCTION AND EQUIPMENT OF RAILROADS IN ALASKA," ACT OF JANUARY 24, 1923, 42 STAT. 1217, ARE GENERALLY THAT A DISBURSING OFFICER PAY ONLY CURRENT OBLIGATIONS FOR FIXED SALARIES, BILLS FOR SUPPLIES PURCHASED AND APPROVED, AND OTHER SIMILAR DEMANDS WHICH DO NOT REQUIRE FOR THE ASCERTAINMENT OF THEIR VALIDITY THE WEIGHING OF EVIDENCE OR THE DETERMINATION OF QUESTIONS OF LAW OR FACT. 4 COMP. DEC. 332.

IT IS NOT PRACTICABLE TO SPECIFY A DEFINITE PERIOD OF TIME AFTER THE INCURRING OF AN OBLIGATION BEYOND WHICH AN OBLIGATION WOULD NOT BE REGARDED AS CURRENT. IT APPEARS SUFFICIENT TO SAY THAT THE OBLIGATION HERE IN QUESTION WAS SUCH AS SHOULD HAVE BEEN SUBMITTED TO THIS OFFICE FOR DIRECT SETTLEMENT AS A CLAIM ACCOMPANIED BY A FULL AND DETAILED EXPLANATION, AND IN ALL CASES WHERE THE DELAY IS SUCH AS TO RAISE A REASONABLE DOUBT IN THE MIND OF THE DISBURSING OFFICER AS TO WHETHER HE IS AUTHORIZED TO MAKE THE PAYMENT SUCH DOUBT SHOULD BE RESOLVED IN FAVOR OF FORWARDING THE VOUCHER FOR DIRECT SETTLEMENT, AS SUCH PROCEDURE WOULD APPEAR TO BE TO THE BEST INTERESTS OF BOTH THE DISBURSING OFFICER AND THE UNITED STATES.