A-37938, AUGUST 22, 1931, 11 COMP. GEN. 87

A-37938: Aug 22, 1931

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Edda Emmanuelli Perez
(202) 512-2853
EmmanuelliPerezE@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

THERE IS NO AUTHORITY OF LAW FOR THE INSTALLATION AND MAINTENANCE OF TELEPHONES AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE IN THE QUARTERS ASSIGNED TO MEDICAL OFFICERS AND NURSES OF THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE. AS FOLLOWS: I WISH TO INVITE YOUR ATTENTION TO DISALLOWANCES THAT HAVE BEEN MADE ON VOUCHERS SUBMITTED BY THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE FOR TELEPHONE SERVICE IN GOVERNMENT-OWNED AND LEASED QUARTERS ASSIGNED TO OFFICERS AND OTHER PERSONNEL OF THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE. THESE TELEPHONES ARE USED ENTIRELY FOR OFFICIAL BUSINESS AND ARE NECESSARY FOR PROPER ADMINISTRATION OF HOSPITALS AND QUARANTINE STATIONS. THEY ARE VITAL FOR THE TRANSACTION OF ROUTINE BUSINESS AND THEIR LACK AT A CRITICAL TIME MIGHT INVOLVE LOSS OF HUMAN LIFE.

A-37938, AUGUST 22, 1931, 11 COMP. GEN. 87

TELEPHONES - PRIVATE RESIDENCES - PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE IN VIEW OF THE PROVISIONS IN SECTION 7 OF THE ACT OF AUGUST 23, 1912, 37 STAT. 414, PROHIBITING THE USE OF PUBLIC FUNDS FOR THE INSTALLATION AND MAINTENANCE OF TELEPHONES IN PRIVATE RESIDENCE OR APARTMENTS, THERE IS NO AUTHORITY OF LAW FOR THE INSTALLATION AND MAINTENANCE OF TELEPHONES AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE IN THE QUARTERS ASSIGNED TO MEDICAL OFFICERS AND NURSES OF THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL TO THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY, AUGUST 22, 1931:

THERE HAS BEEN RECEIVED A LETTER OF JULY 30, 1931, FROM THE SURGEON GENERAL, PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE, AS FOLLOWS:

I WISH TO INVITE YOUR ATTENTION TO DISALLOWANCES THAT HAVE BEEN MADE ON VOUCHERS SUBMITTED BY THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE FOR TELEPHONE SERVICE IN GOVERNMENT-OWNED AND LEASED QUARTERS ASSIGNED TO OFFICERS AND OTHER PERSONNEL OF THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE. THESE TELEPHONES ARE USED ENTIRELY FOR OFFICIAL BUSINESS AND ARE NECESSARY FOR PROPER ADMINISTRATION OF HOSPITALS AND QUARANTINE STATIONS. THEY ARE VITAL FOR THE TRANSACTION OF ROUTINE BUSINESS AND THEIR LACK AT A CRITICAL TIME MIGHT INVOLVE LOSS OF HUMAN LIFE.

TELEPHONE CONNECTIONS ARE NEEDED IN THE OFFICERS' QUARTERS FOR THE REASON THAT THE SWITCHBOARD IS NOT OPEN 24 HOURS A DAY. CALLS COME TO A HOSPITAL OR QUARANTINE STATION WHICH MUST BE ANSWERED BY A MEDICAL OFFICER, AND IF HE HAD NO TELEPHONE IT WOULD BE NECESSARY TO SEND A MESSENGER TO HIS QUARTERS, WHICH IS IMPRACTICABLE. IF THE TELEPHONES IN QUARTERS ARE DISCONTINUED, IT WILL BE NECESSARY TO HAVE ADDITIONAL TELEPHONE OPERATORS OR ADDITIONAL ATTENDANTS FOR MESSENGER DUTY. THE COST WOULD BE GREATLY IN EXCESS OF THE SMALL MONTHLY TELEPHONE BILL.

IT IS ALSO FREQUENTLY NECESSARY TO COMMUNICATE WITH OR SECURE THE IMMEDIATE SERVICES OF A NURSE OR ATTENDANT LIVING IN ASSIGNED QUARTERS. DELAY MIGHT CAUSE HARDSHIP TO A PATIENT OR IMPAIR THE EFFICIENCY OF THE STATION. IT WOULD NOT BE PRACTICABLE TO DISPENSE WITH THE TELEPHONES NOW IN USE.

IN VIEW OF THE ACT OF AUGUST 23, 1912, SEC. 7, 37 STAT. 414, STEPS WILL BE TAKEN TO REQUEST CONGRESS TO AMEND THE WORDING OF THE APPROPRIATION ACT TO ALLOW TELEPHONE SERVICE TO GOVERNMENT-OWNED OR LEASED QUARTERS AND OTHER BUILDINGS, FOR OFFICIAL BUSINESS ONLY.

UNTIL SUCH AMENDMENT OF WORDING IS APPROVED, IT IS REQUESTED THAT YOU WAIVE DISALLOWANCES FOR THE FISCAL YEARS 1931 AND 1932.

SECTION 7 OF THE ACT OF AUGUST 23, 1912, 37 STAT. 414, PROVIDES AS FOLLOWS:

THAT NO MONEY APPROPRIATED BY THIS OR ANY OTHER ACT SHALL BE EXPENDED FOR TELEPHONE SERVICE INSTALLED IN ANY PRIVATE RESIDENCE OR PRIVATE APARTMENT OR FOR TOLLS OR OTHER CHARGES FOR TELEPHONE SERVICE FROM PRIVATE RESIDENCES OR PRIVATE APARTMENTS, EXCEPT FOR LONG DISTANCE TELEPHONE TOLLS REQUIRED STRICTLY FOR THE PUBLIC BUSINESS, AND SO SHOWN BY VOUCHERS DULY SWORN TO AND APPROVED BY THE HEAD OF THE DEPARTMENT, DIVISION, BUREAU, OR OFFICE IN WHICH THE OFFICIAL USING SUCH TELEPHONE OR INCURRING THE EXPENSE OF SUCH TOLLS SHALL BE EMPLOYED. DIVISION, BUREAU, OR OFFICE IN WHICH THE OFFICIAL USING SUCH TELEPHONE OR INCURRING THE EXPENSE OF SUCH TOLLS SHALL BE EMPLOYED.

THE LANGUAGE OF THE SECTION QUOTED IS PLAIN AND COMPREHENSIVE AND HAS BEEN UNIFORMLY CONSTRUED IN A LONG LINE OF DECISIONS TO PROHIBIT THE FURNISHING AT PUBLIC EXPENSE OF PERSONAL TELEPHONE SERVICE TO A GOVERNMENT OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE IN A PRIVATE RESIDENCE OR QUARTERS. SEE 19 COMP. DEC. 198, 202, 350; 21 ID. 248; 22 ID. 602; 4 COMP. GEN. 19; ID. 891; 7 ID. 651; 10 ID. 428.

THERE WOULD APPEAR TO BE NO QUESTION AS TO THE DESIRABILITY OF TELEPHONES IN THE QUARTERS ASSIGNED TO MEDICAL OFFICERS AND NURSES AND OTHER PERSONNEL OF THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE, BUT THE QUESTION AS TO WHETHER THE EXPENSE OF SUCH TELEPHONES SHOULD BE BORNE BY THE GOVERNMENT OR BY THE OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE IN WHOSE RESIDENCE OR QUARTERS THE TELEPHONE IS INSTALLED HAS BEEN DETERMINED BY THE CONGRESS IN THE SECTION ABOVE QUOTED; AND IN VIEW OF THE EXPRESS STATUTORY PROHIBITION IN SAID SECTION AGAINST THE USE OF APPROPRIATED FUNDS FOR SUCH EXPENSES, THIS OFFICE HAS NO CHOICE BUT TO DISALLOW CREDIT FOR PAYMENTS MADE IN CONTRAVENTION THEREOF.

UPON REVIEW, THE SETTLEMENTS DISALLOWING CREDIT FOR PAYMENTS FOR TELEPHONE SERVICE IN PRIVATE RESIDENCES AND QUARTERS OF OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES OF THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE MUST BE AND ARE SUSTAINED.