A-29699, DECEMBER 17, 1929, 9 COMP. GEN. 251

A-29699: Dec 17, 1929

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PREAUDIT OF VOUCHERS - ADMINISTRATIVE ADDITIONS TO AMOUNTS CLAIMED THERE IS NO AUTHORITY IN THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICERS NOR IN THE ACCOUNTING OFFICERS TO INCREASE THE AMOUNT OF A VOUCHER REPRESENTING A CLAIM AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT WHICH HAS BEEN CERTIFIED AS CORRECT BY THE CLAIMANT. THE VOUCHER WILL BE CERTIFIED IN THE PREAUDIT BY THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE FOR PAYMENT ONLY IN THE AMOUNT CLAIMED BY THE PAYEE. 1929: THERE WAS PRESENTED TO THIS OFFICE FOR PREAUDIT A VOUCHER IN FAVOR OF THE LAMB SEAL AND STENCIL CO. THE ORIGINAL VOUCHER STATED IN TOTAL AMOUNT OF $5.42 WAS SIGNED AND CERTIFIED AS CORRECT BY THE CLAIMANT. BEFORE THE VOUCHER WAS SUBMITTED TO THIS OFFICE FOR PREAUDIT SOME OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE IN YOUR DEPARTMENT INCREASED THE AMOUNT OF THE VOUCHER BY 11 CENTS.

A-29699, DECEMBER 17, 1929, 9 COMP. GEN. 251

PREAUDIT OF VOUCHERS - ADMINISTRATIVE ADDITIONS TO AMOUNTS CLAIMED THERE IS NO AUTHORITY IN THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICERS NOR IN THE ACCOUNTING OFFICERS TO INCREASE THE AMOUNT OF A VOUCHER REPRESENTING A CLAIM AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT WHICH HAS BEEN CERTIFIED AS CORRECT BY THE CLAIMANT. SHOULD AN ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER, NEVERTHELESS, MAKE SUCH AN ADDITION INCREASING THE AMOUNT CLAIMED ON A VOUCHER, TO CORRECT AN APPARENT ERROR ON THE FACE THEREOF, THE VOUCHER WILL BE CERTIFIED IN THE PREAUDIT BY THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE FOR PAYMENT ONLY IN THE AMOUNT CLAIMED BY THE PAYEE.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL TO THE SECRETARY OF LABOR, DECEMBER 17, 1929:

THERE WAS PRESENTED TO THIS OFFICE FOR PREAUDIT A VOUCHER IN FAVOR OF THE LAMB SEAL AND STENCIL CO., REPRESENTING CLAIM FOR THE VALUE OF CERTAIN SUPPLIES FURNISHED THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR NOVEMBER 11, 1929. THE ORIGINAL VOUCHER STATED IN TOTAL AMOUNT OF $5.42 WAS SIGNED AND CERTIFIED AS CORRECT BY THE CLAIMANT, PER ITS PRESIDENT. BEFORE THE VOUCHER WAS SUBMITTED TO THIS OFFICE FOR PREAUDIT SOME OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE IN YOUR DEPARTMENT INCREASED THE AMOUNT OF THE VOUCHER BY 11 CENTS, MAKING A TOTAL OF $5.53, THE REASON THEREFOR BEING STATED ON THE VOUCHER AS FOLLOWS:

ADDITIONAL ON ACCOUNT OF ERROR IN EXTENSION BY DEALER OF 5TH ITEM, AND TRADE DISCOUNT.

UNDER DATE OF NOVEMBER 21, 1929, THE VOUCHER WAS CERTIFIED BY THIS OFFICE FOR PAYMENT ONLY IN THE AMOUNT ORIGINALLY CLAIMED, TO WIT, $5.42. THIS ACTION WAS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE ESTABLISHED RULE APPLICABLE TO SUCH CASES, THE REASONS FOR WHICH WERE STATED IN THE DECISION DATED OCTOBER 8, 1929, A-28945, ADDRESSED TO THE DISBURSING CLERK, INTERSTATE COMMERCE COMMISION, AS FOLLOWS:

WITH REFERENCE TO THE SECOND QUESTION, INVOLVING AN ADMINISTRATIVE ADDITION TO THE AMOUNT CLAIMED BY THE PAYEE, YOU STATE IN SUBSTANCE THAT THE ADDITIONS ARE DUE TO CORRECTIONS MADE IN YOUR OFFICE OF APPARENT ERRORS IN ORDER THAT THE ACCOUNTS MAY BE PAID IN THE CORRECT AMOUNT, AND THAT IT HAS BEEN THE PRACTICE OF YOUR OFFICE FOR SEVERAL YEARS TO PAY THE AMOUNT APPEARING TO BE DUE TO EMPLOYEES WHO TRAVEL, WHETHER IT BE NECESSARY TO MAKE A DEDUCTION FROM, OR AN ADDITION TO, THE AMOUNT CLAIMED.

THERE MAY BE INSTANCES WHERE IT IS EVIDENT THAT THERE HAS BEEN AN ERROR IN COMPUTATION OR OTHERWISE IN THE STATING OF A VOUCHER, SUCH AS ERRORS IN EXTENSIONS OR TOTALS, BUT, HOWEVER OBVIOUS THE ERROR MAY APPEAR, IN NO CASE SHOULD AN EMPLOYEE OR OTHER GOVERNMENT CREDITOR BE PAID MORE ON A VOUCHER THAN THE AMOUNT CLAIMED THEREON AND CERTIFIED TO BE CORRECT. IS POSSIBLE IN ALL SUCH CASES THAT THERE MAY HAVE BEEN SUFFICIENT REASON FOR CLAIMING A LESSER AMOUNT THAT THAT WHICH APPEARS TO BE DUE AND PAYABLE.

WHILE IT IS APPARENT THERE WAS AN ERROR WITH RESPECT TO ITEM 5 AS STATED ON THE VOUCHER IN THE INSTANT CASE, IT DOES NOT NECESSARILY FOLLOW THAT THE ERROR WAS IN THE TOTAL. IT IS CLEAR THAT 12 ENVELOPES AT 4 CENTS EACH WOULD NOT BE 36 CENTS, BUT THE CLAIMANT CHARGED FOR ONLY 9 ENVELOPES, OR AT ONLY 3 CENTS EACH. BUT IN ANY EVENT IT MUST BE ASSUMED THAT THE CLAIMANT'S CERTIFICATE AS TO THE CORRECTNESS OF A VOUCHER HAS REFERENCE TO THE TOTAL AMOUNT CLAIMED THEREON AND THAT IT WAS INTENDED TO CLAIM ONLY THE EXACT AMOUNT SHOWN.

NOTWITHSTANDING THE ABOVE RULE AND THE DECISION OF OCTOBER 8, 1929, THE CHIEF OF THE DIVISION OF PUBLICATIONS AND SUPPLIES, DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, RESUBMITTED THE VOUCHER FOR A TOTAL AMOUNT OF $5.53, INCLUDING THE 11 CENTS WHICH HAD PREVIOUSLY BEEN ADDED BY THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE, TOGETHER WITH A LETTER, ARGUMENTATIVE IN CHARACTER, SUPPLEMENTED BY TELEPHONE MESSAGES. THE LETTER CONTAINED THE FOLLOWING STATEMENTS:

* * * THE 11 CENTS SUSPENDED IS NOT IN ANY SENSE OR UNDER ANY INTERPRETATION AN ALTERATION OF THE VOUCHER, BUT IS A CORRECTION OF AN OBVIOUS ERROR APPARENT ON THE MOST CURSORY EXAMINATION.

IN ORDER TO COMPLY WITH YOUR SUSPENSION, IT WILL BE NECESSARY EITHER TO BILK THE CONTRACTOR OUT OF 11 CENTS WHICH CONFESSEDLY IS DUE HIM, OR THIS DEPARTMENT WILL BE PUT TO THE EXPENSE OF REWRITING THIS ORDER, THIS VOUCHER, THIS INVOICE, AND CORRECTING THE ACCOMPANYING RECORDS IN EACH CASE, A MOST WASTEFUL PROCEEDING.

THIS SPACE ON THE VOUCHER, WHICH WAS PREPARED BY THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL'S OFFICE FOR USE OF ALL DEPARTMENTS, WAS INTENDED FOR CORRECTIONS OF THIS KIND.

THERE IS NO MERIT IN THE CONTENTION THAT THE ACTION OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE IN THIS INSTANCE INVOLVED A CORRECTION RATHER THAN AN ALTERATION, EVEN IF THERE COULD BE RECOGNIZED A DISTINCTION BETWEEN A CORRECTION AND AN ALTERATION AS APPLIED TO A CHANGE IN A VOUCHER. FURTHERMORE, THE ACTION OF THIS OFFICE IN REFUSING TO APPROVE THE VOUCHER AS INCREASED BY THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE IS BUT AUTHORIZING PAYMENT OF THE ACTUAL AMOUNT CLAIMED BY THE DEALER AND WILL NOT "BILK THE CONTRACTOR OUT OF 11 CENTS WHICH CONFESSEDLY IS DUE HIM.'

IF THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE SHOULD BE PERMITTED TO INCREASE THE AMOUNT OF A VOUCHER IT WOULD DEFEAT THE VERY PURPOSE OF THE REQUIREMENT THAT THE CLAIMANT CERTIFY THAT THE CLAIM IS CORRECT AND JUST AND THAT PAYMENT THEREON HAS NOT BEEN RECEIVED, AND MIGHT IN SOME CASES PRECLUDE THE UNITED STATES FROM INVOKING THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 35 OF THE CRIMINAL CODE AS AMENDED BY THE ACT OF OCTOBER 23, 1918, 40 STAT. 1015, CARRIED INTO THE U.S.C. AS SECTION 80 OF TITLE 18, WHICH IMPOSE A PENALTY FOR MAKING FALSE VOUCHERS FOR CLAIMS AGAINST THE UNITED STATES. ACCORDINGLY, THE INTERESTS OF THE GOVERNMENT REQUIRE THAT THERE BE NO INCREASE, BY WAY OF CORRECTION OR ALTERATION, IN THE TOTAL AMOUNT CLAIMED ON A VOUCHER, UNLESS SUCH CORRECTION OR ALTERATION BE MADE BY THE CLAIMANT, AND THEN ONLY IN THE FORM OF A NEW VOUCHER FOR THE CORRECT AMOUNT CLAIMED. THE MAINTENANCE OF A PRINCIPLE UNDER A UNIFORM PROCEDURE WHEREBY THE GOVERNMENT WILL BE FULLY PROTECTED IS OF MORE IMPORTANCE THAT THE SAVING OF THE LITTLE ADDITIONAL WORK INVOLVED IN RETURNING AN APPARENTLY INCORRECT VOUCHER TO THE CLAIMANT FOR CORRECTION BEFORE THE SAME IS PAID OR SUBMITTED TO THIS OFFICE FOR PREAUDIT.

THE RULE PREVIOUSLY ANNOUNCED AND HEREIN AFFIRMED IS FOR GENERAL APPLICATION. ACCORDINGLY, IT IS REQUESTED THAT PROPER INSTRUCTIONS BE ISSUED TO YOUR SUBORDINATES TO COMPLY THEREWITH IN ORDER TO OBVIATE THE NECESSITY OF REPEATING THE ACTION OF THIS OFFICE ON THE SAME VOUCHER.

THE VOUCHER IN QUESTION, ORIGINALLY CERTIFIED BY THIS OFFICE IN THE AMOUNT OF $5.42, WILL BE RETURNED AND PAYMENT THEREON IN EXCESS OF THAT AMOUNT IS NOT AUTHORIZED.