A-5579, OCTOBER 31, 1924, 4 COMP. GEN. 420

A-5579: Oct 31, 1924

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THE PURCHASE OF AN AUTOMOBILE FOR AN AMOUNT IN EXCESS OF $650 AND PAYMENT THEREFOR FROM THE APPROPRIATION IN THE ACT HEADED "WASHINGTON AQUEDUCT" WITHOUT SUCH A SPECIFIC AUTHORIZATION WAS UNAUTHORIZED. 1924: THERE IS FOR CONSIDERATION THE QUESTION AS TO THE LEGALITY OF A PAYMENT MADE BY LIEUT. THE EXPENDITURE WAS MADE. ON THE ASSUMPTION THAT SINCE THE AUTOMOBILE WAS BEING PURCHASED FOR USE IN CONNECTION WITH THE WASHINGTON AQUEDUCT PROJECT AND NOT FOR USE UNDER THE DIRECTION OR CONTROL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA. THE SECRETARY OF WAR WAS NOT LIMITED TO THE AMOUNT OF $650 IN MAKING THE PURCHASE. THE WASHINGTON AQUEDUCT PROJECT IS NOT UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE COMMISSIONERS OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA.

A-5579, OCTOBER 31, 1924, 4 COMP. GEN. 420

PURCHASES - AUTOMOBILES AS THE PROVISION IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA APPROPRIATION ACT OF FEBRUARY 28, 1923, 42 STAT. 1333, FOR THE FISCAL YEAR 1924 LIMITED THE COST OF ANY AUTOMOBILE ACQUIRED UNDER ANY PROVISION OF THAT ACT TO NOT TO EXCEED $650 EXCEPT AS SPECIFICALLY AUTHORIZED IN THAT ACT AT A GREATER AMOUNT, THE PURCHASE OF AN AUTOMOBILE FOR AN AMOUNT IN EXCESS OF $650 AND PAYMENT THEREFOR FROM THE APPROPRIATION IN THE ACT HEADED "WASHINGTON AQUEDUCT" WITHOUT SUCH A SPECIFIC AUTHORIZATION WAS UNAUTHORIZED.

DECISION BY COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL, OCTOBER 31, 1924:

THERE IS FOR CONSIDERATION THE QUESTION AS TO THE LEGALITY OF A PAYMENT MADE BY LIEUT. JOHN R. HARDIN, ENGINEER CORPS, U.S. ARMY, AS PER VOUCHER NO. 66 OF HIS ACCOUNTS FOR THE MONTH OF AUGUST, 1923, IN THE AMOUNT OF $1,749.50, FOR ONE REO AUTOMOBILE, UNDER THE APPROPRIATION "WASHINGTON AQUEDUCT, D.C., 1924.'

THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA APPROPRIATION ACT OF FEBRUARY 28, 1923, 42 STAT. 1333, UNDER THE HEADING "CONTINGENT AND MISCELLANEOUS EXPENSES," D.C., PROVIDES:

* * * THAT NO AUTOMOBILE SHALL BE ACQUIRED UNDER ANY PROVISION OF THIS ACT, BY PURCHASE OR EXCHANGE, AT A COST, INCLUDING THE VALUE OF A VEHICLE EXCHANGED, EXCEEDING $650, EXCEPT AS MAY BE HEREIN SPECIFICALLY AUTHORIZED

UNDER THE HEADING,"WASHINGTON AQUEDUCT," THE SAME ACT, 42 STAT. 1368, PROVIDES FOR THE ,PURCHASE OF ONE PASSENGER AUTOMOBILE" AND THAT --

NOTHING HEREIN SHALL BE CONSTRUED AS AFFECTING THE SUPERINTENDENCE AND CONTROL OF THE SECRETARY OF WAR OVER THE WASHINGTON AQUEDUCT, ITS RIGHTS, APPURTENANCES, AND FIXTURES CONNECTED WITH THE SAME AND OVER APPROPRIATIONS AND EXPENDITURES THEREFOR AS NOW PROVIDED BY LAW.

THE EXPENDITURE WAS MADE, IT APPEARS, ON THE ASSUMPTION THAT SINCE THE AUTOMOBILE WAS BEING PURCHASED FOR USE IN CONNECTION WITH THE WASHINGTON AQUEDUCT PROJECT AND NOT FOR USE UNDER THE DIRECTION OR CONTROL OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, THE SECRETARY OF WAR WAS NOT LIMITED TO THE AMOUNT OF $650 IN MAKING THE PURCHASE.

THE WASHINGTON AQUEDUCT PROJECT IS NOT UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE COMMISSIONERS OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, BUT WITHOUT REGARD TO THE PURPOSE, THE APPROPRIATION FOR THE PROJECT HAS BEEN INCLUDED BY THE CONGRESS IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA APPROPRIATION ACT. IT IS THEREFORE SUBJECT TO ALL THE LIMITATIONS APPLYING GENERALLY TO SAID ACT UNLESS BY OTHER PROVISION IT IS SPECIFICALLY EXCEPTED THEREFROM.

THE ACT LIMITS TO $650 THE EXPENDITURE FOR AN AUTOMOBILE UNDER ANY OF ITS PROVISIONS, EXCEPT AS OTHERWISE SPECIFICALLY AUTHORIZED, AND MAKES NO SPECIFIC PROVISION FOR AN EXPENDITURE IN EXCESS OF THAT AMOUNT FOR THE AUTOMOBILE IN QUESTION. THE LIMITING PROVISION IS CLEAR, UNAMBIGUOUS, AND ALL-INCLUSIVE. IT APPLIES TO EVERY PURCHASE OF AN AUTOMOBILE MADE FROM APPROPRIATIONS CONTAINED IN THE ACT EXCEPT PURCHASES SPECIFICALLY AUTHORIZED THEREIN AT A GREATER COST.

I FIND NO SUCH SPECIFIC AUTHORITY IN THAT PROVISION OF THE ACT WHICH RESERVES TO THE SECRETARY OF WAR THE INDEPENDENT SUPERINTENDENCE AND CONTROL OF THE WASHINGTON AQUEDUCT, ETC., NOR DOES IT SEEM THAT IT COULD HAVE BEEN THE INTENT OF THE CONGRESS TO HAVE THIS PROVISION SERVE AS SUCH SPECIFIC AUTHORITY WHEN IT IS OBSERVED THAT UNDER ANOTHER HEADING IN THE ACT, 42 STAT. 1338, SPECIFIC PROVISION WAS MADE FOR "THE PURCHASE OF ONE SPECIAL MOTOR VEHICLE AT A COST NOT TO EXCEED $2,000.'

I AM CONSTRAINED TO HOLD, THEREFORE, THAT THE EXPENDITURE IS ILLEGAL, AND ACCORDINGLY THE ACCOUNT WILL BE REOPENED AND THE DISBURSING OFFICER CHARGED WITH THE AMOUNT OF $1,749.50.