A-35205, FEBRUARY 16, 1931, 10 COMP. GEN. 371

A-35205: Feb 16, 1931

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OATHS - EXPENSE ACCOUNTS - CUSTOMS SERVICE COLLECTORS OF CUSTOMS ARE NOT AUTHORIZED BY SECTION 8 OF THE ACT OF AUGUST 24. 1931: I HAVE YOUR LETTER OF JANUARY 31. ARE COLLECTORS OF CUSTOMS AUTHORIZED BY SECTION 8 OF THE ACT OF AUGUST 24. IF THE ANSWER TO "1" IS IN THE AFFIRMATIVE. IS A CLERK SO DESIGNATED AUTHORIZED TO ADMINISTER OATHS TO TRAVEL OR OTHER EXPENSE ACCOUNTS OF OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES OTHER THAN THOSE IN THE OFFICE OF THE COLLECTOR? 3. * * * ARE REQUIRED. THE QUESTION HAS NOT BEEN HERETOFORE DECIDED WHETHER A COLLECTOR OF CUSTOMS IS AUTHORIZED BY SECTION 8 OF THE ACT OF AUGUST 24. THAT THE WORDS "OR CLERKS DESIGNATED BY THEM FOR THE PURPOSE" WERE NOT INTENDED AS REFERRING TO ALL THAT PRECEDES THEM SO AS TO AUTHORIZE POSTMASTERS.

A-35205, FEBRUARY 16, 1931, 10 COMP. GEN. 371

OATHS - EXPENSE ACCOUNTS - CUSTOMS SERVICE COLLECTORS OF CUSTOMS ARE NOT AUTHORIZED BY SECTION 8 OF THE ACT OF AUGUST 24, 1912, 37 STAT. 487, TO DESIGNATE CLERKS IN THEIR RESPECTIVE OFFICES TO ADMINISTER OATHS TO TRAVEL OR OTHER EXPENSE ACCOUNTS. THE AUTHORITY TO ADMINISTER OATHS IN CERTAIN CASES CONFERRED UPON VARIOUS CLASSES OF OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES OF THE CUSTOMS SERVICE BY SECTION 486 OF THE ACT OF JUNE 17, 1930, 46 STAT. 725, AUTHORIZES SUCH OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES TO ADMINISTER OATHS TO TRAVEL OR OTHER EXPENSE ACCOUNTS OF CUSTOMS EMPLOYEES, BUT NOT SUCH ACCOUNTS OF EMPLOYEES IN OTHER BRANCHES OF THE GOVERNMENT.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL TO THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY, FEBRUARY 16, 1931:

I HAVE YOUR LETTER OF JANUARY 31, 1931, REQUESTING DECISION ON QUESTIONS STATED AS FOLLOWS:

1. ARE COLLECTORS OF CUSTOMS AUTHORIZED BY SECTION 8 OF THE ACT OF AUGUST 24, 1912, TO DESIGNATE CLERKS IN THEIR RESPECTIVE OFFICES TO ADMINISTER OATHS TO TRAVEL OR OTHER EXPENSE ACCOUNTS?

2. IF THE ANSWER TO "1" IS IN THE AFFIRMATIVE, IS A CLERK SO DESIGNATED AUTHORIZED TO ADMINISTER OATHS TO TRAVEL OR OTHER EXPENSE ACCOUNTS OF OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES OTHER THAN THOSE IN THE OFFICE OF THE COLLECTOR?

3. DOES THE AUTHORITY TO ADMINISTER OATHS IN CERTAIN CASES CONFERRED UPON VARIOUS CLASSES OF OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES OF THE CUSTOMS SERVICE BY SECTION 486 OF THE TARIFF ACT OF 1930 AUTHORIZE SUCH OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES TO ADMINISTER OATHS TO TRAVEL OR OTHER EXPENSE ACCOUNTS?

SECTION 8 OF THE ACT OF AUGUST 24, 1912, 37 STAT. 487, PROVIDES AS FOLLOWS:

AFTER JUNE THIRTIETH, NINETEEN HUNDRED AND TWELVE, POSTMASTERS, ASSISTANT POSTMASTERS, COLLECTORS OF CUSTOMS, COLLECTORS OF INTERNAL REVENUE, CHIEF CLERKS OF THE VARIOUS EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND BUREAUS, OR CLERKS DESIGNATED BY THEM FOR THE PURPOSE, * * * ARE REQUIRED, EMPOWERED, AND AUTHORIZED, WHEN REQUESTED, TO ADMINISTER OATHS, REQUIRED BY LAW OR OTHERWISE, TO ACCOUNTS FOR TRAVEL OR OTHER EXPENSES AGAINST THE UNITED STATES, WITH LIKE FORCE AND EFFECT AS OFFICERS HAVING A SEAL; * * *.

AN EXAMINATION OF THE DECISIONS OF THE ACCOUNTING OFFICERS SHOWS THAT, AS STATED IN YOUR LETTER, THE QUESTION HAS NOT BEEN HERETOFORE DECIDED WHETHER A COLLECTOR OF CUSTOMS IS AUTHORIZED BY SECTION 8 OF THE ACT OF AUGUST 24, 1912, SUPRA, TO DESIGNATE A CLERK IN HIS OFFICE TO ADMINISTER OATHS TO EXPENSE ACCOUNTS OF OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES OF THE UNITED STATES. THAT THE WORDS "OR CLERKS DESIGNATED BY THEM FOR THE PURPOSE" WERE NOT INTENDED AS REFERRING TO ALL THAT PRECEDES THEM SO AS TO AUTHORIZE POSTMASTERS, ASSISTANT POSTMASTERS, COLLECTORS OF CUSTOMS, AND COLLECTORS OF INTERNAL REVENUE TO MAKE SUCH DESIGNATIONS IS INDICATED BY THE FACT THAT BOTH POSTMASTERS AND ASSISTANT POSTMASTERS ARE NAMED. IT IS NOT TO BE ASSUMED THAT IT WAS INTENDED THAT POSTMASTERS AND ASSISTANT POSTMASTERS SHOULD EACH BE AUTHORIZED TO DESIGNATE CLERKS IN THE POST OFFICE TO ADMINISTER OATHS, AND YET IF IT COULD BE HELD THAT THE POSTMASTER CAN MAKE SUCH DESIGNATIONS IT WOULD HAVE TO BE HELD, UNDER THE TERMS OF THE PROVISION IN QUESTION, THAT ASSISTANT POSTMASTERS HAVE THAT AUTHORITY ALSO. MANIFESTLY THERE WAS NO NEED FOR ANYONE IN A POST OFFICE TO ADMINISTER OATHS OTHER THAN THE POSTMASTER AND ASSISTANT POSTMASTER. ACCORDINGLY, IT MUST BE HELD THAT THE CLAUSE "OR CLERKS DESIGNATED BY THEM FOR THE PURPOSE" RELATES ONLY TO THE ,CHIEF CLERKS OF THE VARIOUS EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND BUREAUS.'

IN VIEW OF THE CONSIDERATIONS SET FORTH IN THE PRECEDING PARAGRAPH, I AM CONSTRAINED TO ANSWER YOUR FIRST QUESTION IN THE NEGATIVE, WHICH RENDERS IT UNNECESSARY TO CONSIDER THE SECOND QUESTION.

SECTION 486 OF THE ACT OF JUNE 17, 1930, 46 STAT. 725, PROVIDES FOR THE ADMINISTRATION OF OATHS AS FOLLOWS:

(A) CUSTOMS OFFICERS.--- THE FOLLOWING OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES MAY ADMINISTER ANY OATHS REQUIRED OR AUTHORIZED BY LAW OR REGULATIONS PROMULGATED THEREUNDER IN RESPECT OF ANY MATTER COMING BEFORE SUCH OFFICERS OR EMPLOYEES IN THE PERFORMANCE OF THEIR OFFICIAL DUTIES: (1) ANY CUSTOMS OFFICER APPOINTED BY THE PRESIDENT; (2) THE CHIEF ASSISTANT OF ANY SUCH OFFICER, OR ANY OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE OF THE CUSTOMS FIELD SERVICE DESIGNATED FOR THE PURPOSE BY SUCH OFFICER OR BY THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY; AND (3) ANY OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE OF THE BUREAU OF CUSTOMS DESIGNATED FOR THE PURPOSE BY THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY.

(C) NO COMPENSATION.--- NO COMPENSATION OR FEE SHALL BE DEMANDED OR ACCEPTED FOR ADMINISTERING ANY OATH UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THIS SECTION.

THE CUSTOMS OFFICERS OR EMPLOYEES SPECIFIED IN THE ACT LAST QUOTED ARE EMPOWERED TO ADMINISTER ANY OATHS REQUIRED OR AUTHORIZED BY LAW OR REGULATION PROMULGATED THEREUNDER IN RESPECT OF ANY MATTER COMING BEFORE SUCH OFFICERS OR EMPLOYEES IN THE PERFORMANCE OF THEIR OFFICIAL DUTIES. THOUGH THE CONTEXT SEEMS TO INDICATE THAT THE PROVISION HAS APPLICATION PRIMARILY TO CUSTOMS MATTERS, YET THE LANGUAGE IS BROAD ENOUGH TO INCLUDE TRAVEL OR OTHER EXPENSE ACCOUNTS OF CUSTOMS EMPLOYEES, BUT NOT SUCH ACCOUNTS OF EMPLOYEES IN OTHER BRANCHES THAN THE CUSTOMS SERVICE SINCE THE TRAVEL OR OTHER EXPENSE ACCOUNTS OF EMPLOYEES IN OTHER BRANCHES OF THE SERVICE DO NOT PROPERLY COME BEFORE CUSTOMS OFFICERS OR EMPLOYEES IN THE PERFORMANCE OF THEIR OFFICIAL DUTIES.

IN THE FIRST PARAGRAPH OF YOUR LETTER REFERENCE IS MADE TO A PAYMENT ON A VOUCHER FOR PER DIEM AND OTHER EXPENSES OF AN EMPLOYEE UNDER THE SUPERVISING ARCHITECT. EXCEPTION WAS TAKEN IN THE AUDIT OF THE VOUCHER BECAUSE THE OATH THEREON WAS ADMINISTERED BY A CLERK DESIGNATED BY THE COLLECTOR OF CUSTOMS AT BALTIMORE, UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF TREASURY DECISION 37913, DATED FEBRUARY 17, 1919, IN WHICH THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY IN CHARGE OF CUSTOMS MATTERS SUGGESTED TO COLLECTORS OF CUSTOMS THAT THEY DESIGNATE CLERKS IN THEIR OFFICE TO ADMINISTER OATHS TO ACCOUNTS FOR TRAVEL OR OTHER EXPENSES AGAINST THE UNITED STATES, AND DIRECTED THAT COPIES OF THE DESIGNATIONS BE FORWARDED TO THE AUDITOR OF THE TREASURY DEPARTMENT FOR HIS INFORMATION. APPARENTLY, SINCE THAT TIME, VOUCHERS SUPPORTED BY OATHS ADMINISTERED BY CLERKS DESIGNATED BY COLLECTORS OF CUSTOMS FOR THE PURPOSE HAVE BEEN PASSED IN THE AUDIT OF THE ACCOUNTS OF THE DISBURSING OFFICERS MAKING PAYMENT ON SUCH VOUCHERS. VIEW THEREOF CREDIT FOR SUCH PAYMENTS HERETOFORE MADE WILL BE ALLOWED, IF CORRECT IN OTHER RESPECTS.