A-73624, MAY 11, 1936, 15 COMP. GEN. 986

A-73624: May 11, 1936

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HAS INCREASED THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE STATE MEN WHO HAVE BEEN IN CHARGE OF THE COTTON PROGRAM UNDER THE AGRICULTURAL ADJUSTMENT ADMINISTRATION. WHO WILL PROBABLY CONTINUE IN CHARGE OF THE NEW PROGRAM UNDER THE SOIL CONSERVATION AND DOMESTIC ALLOTMENT ACT. THE MAJORITY OF THE MEN HAVE BEEN CONNECTED WITH THE STATE EXTENSION SERVICE FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS. ARE RESIDENTS OF THE RESPECTIVE STATES. HAVE VARIED PROPERTY INTERESTS. UNDER THE CONSOLIDATION WHICH HAS BEEN EFFECTED THESE MEN HAVE BEEN DESIGNATED AS ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICERS IN CHARGE. WHERE THERE IS NO FRAUD. WHERE DUE DILIGENCE WAS EXERCISED IN CERTIFYING PAYMENT. THE DUTIES OF THE CERTIFYING OFFICER ARE AS FOLLOWS: 1. TO DETERMINE THAT THE NECESSARY FORMS ARE PROPERLY EXECUTED AND APPROVED BY THE COUNTY AGENT AND THE COUNTY COMMITTEE AND TRANSMITTED TO THE STATE OFFICE. 3.

A-73624, MAY 11, 1936, 15 COMP. GEN. 986

CERTIFYING OFFICERS - LIABILITY FOR ERRONEOUS OR ILLEGAL PAYMENTS CERTIFYING OFFICERS MAY NOT BE RELIEVED FROM LIABILITY IMPOSED BY EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 6166, DATED JUNE 10, 1933, FOR ERRONEOUS OR ILLEGAL PAYMENTS MADE UPON THEIR RESPONSIBILITY, NOTWITHSTANDING THE EXERCISE OF DUE DILIGENCE IN THE CERTIFICATION AND THE GREATER RESPONSIBILITY IMPOSED BY A CONSOLIDATION OF OFFICES WITHOUT AN INCREASE IN THEIR COMPENSATION.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL TO THE SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE, MAY 11, 1936:

THERE HAS BEEN CONSIDERED YOUR LETTER OF APRIL 7, 1936, AS FOLLOWS:

THE CONSOLIDATION OF THE STATE COTTON OFFICE AND THE FIELD AUDIT OFFICE OF THE COMPTROLLER OF THE AGRICULTURAL ADJUSTMENT ADMINISTRATION AS OF FEBRUARY 20, 1936, HAS INCREASED THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE STATE MEN WHO HAVE BEEN IN CHARGE OF THE COTTON PROGRAM UNDER THE AGRICULTURAL ADJUSTMENT ADMINISTRATION, AND WHO WILL PROBABLY CONTINUE IN CHARGE OF THE NEW PROGRAM UNDER THE SOIL CONSERVATION AND DOMESTIC ALLOTMENT ACT. THE MAJORITY OF THE MEN HAVE BEEN CONNECTED WITH THE STATE EXTENSION SERVICE FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS, ARE RESIDENTS OF THE RESPECTIVE STATES, AND HAVE VARIED PROPERTY INTERESTS. UNDER THE CONSOLIDATION WHICH HAS BEEN EFFECTED THESE MEN HAVE BEEN DESIGNATED AS ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICERS IN CHARGE, THEREBY INCREASING THEIR RESPONSIBILITY BUT NOT THEIR COMPENSATION. IN VIEW OF THE ORDER CITED BELOW THE QUESTION HAS BEEN RAISED AS TO THE INDIVIDUAL FINANCIAL LIABILITY OF THESE MEN IN CERTIFYING VOUCHERS FOR PAYMENT IN CASE THERE SHOULD BE AN ERRONEOUS PAYMENT, WHERE THERE IS NO FRAUD, COLLUSION, OR MISREPRESENTATION ON THE PART OF THE CERTIFYING OFFICER, AND WHERE DUE DILIGENCE WAS EXERCISED IN CERTIFYING PAYMENT.

SECTION IV OF EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 6166, DATED JUNE 10, 1933, READS IN PART AS FOLLOWS:

"THE DIVISION OF DISBURSEMENT SHALL DISBURSE MONIES ONLY UPON THE CERTIFICATION OF PERSONS BY LAW DULY AUTHORIZED TO INCUR OBLIGATIONS UPON BEHALF OF THE UNITED STATES. THE FUNCTION OF ACCOUNTABILITY FOR IMPROPER CERTIFICATIONS SHALL BE TRANSFERRED TO SUCH PERSONS AND NO DISBURSING OFFICER SHALL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE THEREFOR.'

THE DUTIES OF THE CERTIFYING OFFICER ARE AS FOLLOWS:

1. TO SUPPLY COUNTY AGENTS AND COUNTY COMMITTEES IN HIS STATES WITH THE PROPER FORMS AND THE NECESSARY INSTRUCTIONS RELATIVE TO THE PREPARATION AND EXECUTION OF SUCH FORMS.

2. TO DETERMINE THAT THE NECESSARY FORMS ARE PROPERLY EXECUTED AND APPROVED BY THE COUNTY AGENT AND THE COUNTY COMMITTEE AND TRANSMITTED TO THE STATE OFFICE.

3. TO SUPERVISE THE ADMINISTRATIVE EXAMINATION OF APPLICATIONS AND THE PREPARATION OF FORMS AND CORRESPONDENCE IN THE STATE OFFICE IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PROCEDURE SET FORTH IN FORM NO. C.A.P. 93, REVISED, A COPY OF WHICH IS ATTACHED.

4. TO DETERMINE THAT THE COTTON PRICE ADJUSTMENT PAYMENTS TO PAYEES NAMED AND IN THE AMOUNTS STATED ON THE SCHEDULE OF PAYMENTS, FORM NO. C-125, ARE CORRECT AND DUE THE PAYEES NAMED; THAT THEY ARE MADE UNDER THE ORIGINAL APPLICATIONS FOR COTTON PRICE ADJUSTMENT PAYMENT, AND THAT THE PAYMENTS ARE PROPER AND IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE TERMS OF THE APPLICATIONS AND AGREEMENTS WHICH HE HAS APPROVED.

UNDER THE ESTABLISHED PROCEDURE ALL APPLICATIONS WILL BE PREAUDITED BY A DESIGNATED FIELD PARTY OF THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE AFTER CERTIFICATION IS MADE BY THE ADMINISTRATION OFFICER IN CHARGE OR THE ACTING ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER IN CHARGE BEFORE PAYMENT IS MADE.

WE WOULD APPRECIATE YOUR ADVICE AS TO THE EXTENT OF THE FINANCIAL LIABILITY OF THE CERTIFYING OFFICER OF THE CONSOLIDATED STATE OFFICE UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES OUTLINED ABOVE IN CASE OF ERRONEOUS PAYMENT WHERE THERE IS NO FRAUD, COLLUSION, OR MISREPRESENTATION ON THE PART OF THE CERTIFYING OFFICER, AND WHERE DUE DILIGENCE HAS BEEN EXERCISED IN CERTIFYING PAYMENT.

IN DECISION OF MAY 7, 1934, 13 COMP. GEN. 326, 329, IT WAS STATED, WITH REFERENCE TO THE QUOTED PROVISION OF EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 6166, DATED JUNE 10, 1933, AS FOLLOWS:

SO FAR AS THE ACCOUNTING OFFICERS OF THE GOVERNMENT ARE CONCERNED THE PRIMARY AND DIRECT ACTION REQUIRED BY LAW IS UPON THE DISBURSING OFFICER WHO, USUALLY IS BONDED; AND WHILE THE RESPONSIBILITY OF CERTIFYING OFFICIALS DOES NOT LESSEN THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE DISBURSING OFFICER AND HIS SURETY IN THEIR LIABILITY TO THE UNITED STATES, WHERE IT IS SHOWN THAT AN ERRONEOUS OR ILLEGAL PAYMENT WAS CAUSED SOLELY BY AN IMPROPER CERTIFICATION AS TO MATTERS NOT WITHIN THE KNOWLEDGE OF OR AVAILABLE TO THE DISBURSING OFFICER, THE ACCOUNTING OFFICERS OF THE GOVERNMENT MAY AND WILL RAISE A CHARGE DIRECTLY AGAINST THE CERTIFYING OFFICER FOR THE AMOUNT OF SUCH ERRONEOUS OR ILLEGAL PAYMENT.

THIS STATES THE GENERAL RULE AND IS FOR APPLICATION TO THE CASE PRESENTED. THAT IS TO SAY, IF THE PAYMENT ACTUALLY MADE BE ERRONEOUS OR ILLEGAL AND RESPONSIBILITY THEREFOR RESTS UPON THE CERTIFYING OFFICER RATHER THAN THE DISBURSING OFFICER UNDER THE CONDITIONS STATED IN THE GENERAL RULE, NONE OF THE CONSIDERATIONS SUGGESTED IN YOUR LETTER WOULD RELIEVE THE CERTIFYING OFFICER FROM LIABILITY FOR THE AMOUNT OF THE ERRONEOUS OR ILLEGAL PAYMENT. YOU ARE ADVISED, THEREFORE, THAT THE EXTENT OF THE LIABILITY OF THE CERTIFYING OFFICER OF THE CONSOLIDATED STATE OFFICE MENTIONED IN YOUR LETTER MUST BE FOR DETERMINATION ACCORDINGLY, THERE BEING FOR CONSIDERATION, OF COURSE, THE FACTS IN EACH INDIVIDUAL CASE. (SEE 15 COMP. GEN. 362, ID. 560.)

IN CONNECTION WITH THE FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY OF CERTIFYING OFFICERS, YOUR ATTENTION IS INVITED TO THE FOLLOWING PORTION OF SAID DECISION OF MAY 7, 1934 (13 COMP. GEN. 329):

WITH RESPECT TO YOUR FURTHER QUESTION---

"3. SHOULD CERTIFYING OFFICERS BE REQUIRED TO FURNISH AN APPROPRIATE BOND? " THE INTENT OF THE EXECUTIVE ORDER BEING TO ENFORCE PECUNIARY LIABILITY AGAINST CERTIFYING OFFICERS FOR ERRONEOUS OR ILLEGAL PAYMENTS INDUCED BY THEIR IMPROPER CERTIFICATES, IT WOULD SEEM TO BE IN THE INTEREST OF THE UNITED STATES THAT THEY BE REQUIRED TO FURNISH AN APPROPRIATE BOND, BUT APPARENTLY THERE HAS BEEN NO SUCH GENERAL REQUIREMENTS EITHER BY LEGISLATION OR ORDER HAVING THE FORCE AND EFFECT OF LAW.