A-7576, MAY 25, 1925, 4 COMP. GEN. 991

A-7576: May 25, 1925

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DISBURSING OFFICERS ARE REQUIRED TO MAKE ONLY SUCH EXAMINATION OF VOUCHERS AS MAY BE NECESSARY TO ASCERTAIN WHETHER THEY REPRESENT LEGAL CLAIMS AGAINST THE UNITED STATES. CREDIT WILL ACCORDINGLY BE ALLOWED IN THE ACCOUNTS OF DISBURSING OFFICERS FOR ILLEGAL PAYMENTS MADE ON VOUCHERS PROPERLY CERTIFIED AND APPROVED BY ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICERS AND CONTAINING NOTHING ON THE FACE THEREOF THAT WOULD PUT THE DISBURSING OFFICER ON NOTICE THAT PAYMENTS THEREON WOULD BE ILLEGAL. THE REQUEST FOR RELIEF WAS BASED ON THE ACT OF AUGUST 23. THE VOUCHERS COVERING PAYMENTS TO EMPLOYEES OF THE CUSTODIAN SERVICE WERE IN REGULAR FORM. THERE WAS NOTHING THEREIN TO PUT THE DISBURSING CLERK ON NOTICE THAT PAYMENT OF SAID VOUCHERS WOULD BE ILLEGAL.

A-7576, MAY 25, 1925, 4 COMP. GEN. 991

DISBURSING OFFICERS - RESPONSIBILITY FOR PAYMENTS UNDER THE ACT OF AUGUST 23, 1912, 37 STAT. 375, DISBURSING OFFICERS ARE REQUIRED TO MAKE ONLY SUCH EXAMINATION OF VOUCHERS AS MAY BE NECESSARY TO ASCERTAIN WHETHER THEY REPRESENT LEGAL CLAIMS AGAINST THE UNITED STATES. CREDIT WILL ACCORDINGLY BE ALLOWED IN THE ACCOUNTS OF DISBURSING OFFICERS FOR ILLEGAL PAYMENTS MADE ON VOUCHERS PROPERLY CERTIFIED AND APPROVED BY ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICERS AND CONTAINING NOTHING ON THE FACE THEREOF THAT WOULD PUT THE DISBURSING OFFICER ON NOTICE THAT PAYMENTS THEREON WOULD BE ILLEGAL. A PAY ROLL SHOWING ON ITS FACE THAT THE PAYMENTS TO BE MADE THEREON COVERED INCREASES BY PROMOTIONS MADE SUBSEQUENT TO THE RENDITION OF THE SERVICE CONSTITUTES NOTICE TO THE DISBURSING OFFICER OF THE ILLEGALITY OF THE PAYMENTS AND THE ACT OF AUGUST 23, 1912, 37 STAT. 375, AFFORDS NO PROTECTION TO THE DISBURSING OFFICER FOR ILLEGAL PAYMENTS SO MADE.

DECISION BY ACTING COMPTROLLER GENERAL GINN, MAY 25, 1925:

THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY REQUESTED JANUARY 10, 1925, THAT J. L. SUMMERS, DISBURSING CLERK, TREASURY DEPARTMENT, BE RELIEVED FROM PERSONAL LIABILITY FOR $597.91 AND $295, DISALLOWED IN HIS ACCOUNTS AS ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS MADE TO EMPLOYEES OF THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE AND THE CUSTODIAN SERVICE, RESPECTIVELY. THE REQUEST FOR RELIEF WAS BASED ON THE ACT OF AUGUST 23, 1912, 37 STAT. 375, WHICH PROVIDES:

HEREAFTER THE ADMINISTRATIVE EXAMINATION OF ALL PUBLIC ACCOUNTS, PRELIMINARY TO THEIR AUDIT BY THE ACCOUNTING OFFICERS OF THE TREASURY, SHALL BE MADE AS CONTEMPLATED BY THE SO-CALLED DOCKERY ACT, APPROVED JULY THIRTY-FIRST, EIGHTEEN HUNDRED AND NINETY-FOUR, AND ALL VOUCHERS AND PAYROLLS SHALL BE PREPARED AND EXAMINED BY AND THROUGH THE ADMINISTRATIVE HEADS OF DIVISIONS AND BUREAUS IN THE EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND NOT BY THE DISBURSING CLERKS OF SAID DEPARTMENTS, EXCEPT THOSE VOUCHERS HERETOFORE PREPARED OUTSIDE OF WASHINGTON MAY CONTINUE TO BE SO PREPARED AND THE DISBURSING OFFICER SHALL MAKE ONLY SUCH EXAMINATION OF VOUCHERS AS MAY BE NECESSARY TO ASCERTAIN WHETHER THEY REPRESENT LEGAL CLAIMS AGAINST THE UNITED STATES.

THE VOUCHERS COVERING PAYMENTS TO EMPLOYEES OF THE CUSTODIAN SERVICE WERE IN REGULAR FORM, DULY CERTIFIED AND APPROVED, AND THERE WAS NOTHING THEREIN TO PUT THE DISBURSING CLERK ON NOTICE THAT PAYMENT OF SAID VOUCHERS WOULD BE ILLEGAL. IT WAS NOT UNTIL THE AUDIT BY THIS OFFICE THAT IT WAS DISCOVERED THAT THE EMPLOYEE IN ONE INSTANCE WAS PAID IN VIOLATION OF THE ACT OF MAY 10, 1916, 39 STAT. 120, AS AMENDED BY THE ACT OF AUGUST 29, 1916, ID. 582, WHICH PROHIBITS PAYMENT TO PERSONS RECEIVING MORE THAN ONE SALARY WHEN THE COMBINED AMOUNT OF SAID SALARIES EXCEEDS $2,000 PER ANNUM. IN THE OTHER INSTANCES IN THE CUSTODIAN SERVICE THE VOUCHERS WERE ERRONEOUSLY CERTIFIED. THE ERRONEOUS CERTIFICATION DECEIVED THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE AND THE VOUCHERS WERE DULY APPROVED AS CERTIFIED.

THE VOUCHER FOR $318.75, IN FAVOR OF DR. H. K. BEST, WAS ALSO IN PROPER FORM, AND WAS DULY CERTIFIED AND APPROVED. THE PAYMENT WAS FOR COMMUTATION OF QUARTERS, HEAT, AND LIGHT, AND IN THIS CASE, ALSO, THERE WAS NOTHING TO RAISE ANY QUESTION AS TO THE LEGALITY OF THE PAYMENT.

THE DISALLOWANCES TOTALING $279.16, ARISING IN THE CASE OF PAYMENTS TO EMPLOYEES OF THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE FOR RETROACTIVE PROMOTIONS, STAND ON A DIFFERENT FOOTING. THE VOUCHERS FOR THESE PAYMENTS WERE PAY ROLLS AND SHOWED CLEARLY ON THEIR FACE THAT THEY WERE PAYMENTS OF THE INCREASES COVERED BY PROMOTIONS MADE SUBSEQUENT TO THE DATE OF RENDITION OF SERVICE. THE NOTATIONS CARRIED IN THE "REMARKS" COLUMN ARE TO THE EFFECT THAT THE EMPLOYEES' RATE OF PAY WAS CHANGED, EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 1921, BY AUTHORITY OF TELEGRAM OF SEPTEMBER 24, 1921.

THE DISALLOWANCE OF PAYMENTS MADE ON THE LAST-NAMED VOUCHERS WAS MADE AND AFFIRMED ON THE BASIS OF INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THE FACE OF THE VOUCHERS THEMSELVES. THE PROVISIONS OF THE ACT OF AUGUST 23, 1912, HAVE NO APPLICATION TO A SITUATION OF THIS KIND. SEE DECISION OF MAY 1, 1922, APPEAL 37315.

THE AMOUNT OF $613.75 IS HEREBY CERTIFIED FOR CREDIT IN THE ACCOUNTS OF J. L. SUMMERS, DISBURSING CLERK, TREASURY DEPARTMENT. SEE DECISION OF AUGUST 28, 1920, APPEAL 31788.