A-77017, JULY 24, 1936, 16 COMP. GEN. 59

A-77017: Jul 24, 1936

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IS PROHIBITED BY SECTION 7 OF THE ACT OF AUGUST 23. AS FOLLOWS: YOU WILL FIND ATTACHED A COPY OF AN INSTRUCTION DATED MAY 29. YOUR DECISION IS RESPECTFULLY REQUESTED ON THE FOLLOWING POINTS: (1) WOULD PAYMENT OF CHARGES ON THE TELEPHONE OUTLET INSTALLED IN THE MINISTER'S PRIVATE APARTMENT FOR USE FOR THE PURPOSES WHICH HE DESCRIBES CONSTITUTE A VIOLATION OF SECTION 7 OF THE ACT OF AUGUST 23. IS REMOVED FROM THE PERSONAL LIVING QUARTERS OF THE MINISTER. ACTUALLY IS OUTFITTED WITH A DESK FOR EMERGENCY OFFICE PURPOSES? (3) IF PAYMENT OF CHARGES ON THE TELEPHONE OUTLET AS INSTALLED IN THE MINISTER'S PRIVATE APARTMENT SINCE APRIL 1. IS HELD TO BE IMPROPER. TO WHICH REFERENCE IS MADE. IS AS FOLLOWS: IN MY EXPLANATION STATEMENT DATED JANUARY 6.

A-77017, JULY 24, 1936, 16 COMP. GEN. 59

TELEPHONES - MINISTER'S PRIVATE APARTMENT IN AMERICAN LEGATION RESIDENCE BUILDING PAYMENT OF RENTAL ON A TELEPHONE INSTALLED IN THE PRIVATE APARTMENT OF AN AMERICAN MINISTER, OR IN A SMALL ROOM EQUIPPED AS AN EMERGENCY OFFICE IN SAID PRIVATE APARTMENT IN AN AMERICAN LEGATION RESIDENCE BUILDING, IS PROHIBITED BY SECTION 7 OF THE ACT OF AUGUST 23, 1912, 37 STAT. 414.

ACTING COMPTROLLER GENERAL ELLIOTT TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE, JULY 24, 1936:

THERE HAS BEEN RECEIVED YOUR LETTER OF JUNE 16, 1936, AS FOLLOWS:

YOU WILL FIND ATTACHED A COPY OF AN INSTRUCTION DATED MAY 29, 1936, ADDRESSED TO THE AMERICAN MINISTER AT SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA, AND A COPY OF THE MINISTER'S REPLY OF JUNE 4, 1936, CONCERNING A CHANGE EFFECTED IN THE TELEPHONE INSTALLATION IN THE BUILDING AT SAN JOSE OCCUPIED AS A MINISTER'S RESIDENCE AND LEGATION OFFICES. YOUR DECISION IS RESPECTFULLY REQUESTED ON THE FOLLOWING POINTS:

(1) WOULD PAYMENT OF CHARGES ON THE TELEPHONE OUTLET INSTALLED IN THE MINISTER'S PRIVATE APARTMENT FOR USE FOR THE PURPOSES WHICH HE DESCRIBES CONSTITUTE A VIOLATION OF SECTION 7 OF THE ACT OF AUGUST 23, 1912, 37 STAT. 414?

(2) IF SO, WOULD PAYMENT OF CHARGES ON THE TELEPHONE OUTLET BE AUTHORIZED IF IT SHOULD BE PLACED, AS THE MINISTER SUGGESTS, IN A SMALL ROOM IN THE RESIDENCE QUARTERS WHICH, HOWEVER, IS REMOVED FROM THE PERSONAL LIVING QUARTERS OF THE MINISTER, AND ACTUALLY IS OUTFITTED WITH A DESK FOR EMERGENCY OFFICE PURPOSES?

(3) IF PAYMENT OF CHARGES ON THE TELEPHONE OUTLET AS INSTALLED IN THE MINISTER'S PRIVATE APARTMENT SINCE APRIL 1, 1936, IS HELD TO BE IMPROPER, MAY A DETERMINATION OF THE MINISTER'S LIABILITY FOR THE COST OF THAT OUTLET BE MADE ON THE BASIS SUGGESTED IN THE LAST PARAGRAPH OF HIS DESPATCH, I.E., THAT HE PAY ONE-SIXTH OF THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE SERVICE CHARGE ON THE PRESENT INSTALLATION AND THAT ON THE INSTALLATION IN USE PRIOR TO APRIL 1?

THE PERTINENT PART OF THE MINISTER'S LETTER OF JUNE 4, 1936, TO WHICH REFERENCE IS MADE, IS AS FOLLOWS:

IN MY EXPLANATION STATEMENT DATED JANUARY 6, 1936, WHICH ACCOMPANIED MY ESTIMATES ON FORM 246, FOREIGN SERVICE, FOR THE COMING FISCAL YEAR I WROTE:

"HERETOFORE THE LEGATION'S TELEPHONE BILL HAS TOTALLED APPROXIMATELY $170 A YEAR, BUT IN CONNECTION WITH THE RECENT REPAIRS TO THE BUILDING THE LOCAL TELEPHONE COMPANY KINDLY CONSENTED TO REWIRE THE HOUSE FOR THE INSTALLATION OF ADDITIONAL TELEPHONES UPSTAIRS AND DOWNSTAIRS WHERE NECESSARY, AND THE COMPANY, AT ITS OWN COST, HAS AGREED TO INSTALL A MORE MODERN SWITCHBOARD WHICH ASIDE FROM PERMITTING GREATER FACILITIES FOR OUTSIDE CALLS WILL PERMIT MODERN AND EFFICIENT AUTOMATIC INTER-LEGATION AND CHANCERY COMMUNICATION. IN RETURN FOR THESE CONCESSIONS, ALL THAT THE LOCAL TELEPHONE COMPANY HAS REQUESTED IS THE RENTAL TO THE LEGATION OF AN ADDITIONAL LINE AT AN INCREASED COST OF $80 PER YEAR. WE IN THE LEGATION REGARD THIS AS A SPLENDID INVESTMENT, AND WE LIKEWISE APPRECIATE THE COURTESY OF THE LOCAL TELEPHONE COMPANY IN MAKING THESE IMPROVED FACILITIES AVAILABLE WITHOUT ANY ADDITIONAL COST OTHER THAN THE RENTAL OF AN ADDITIONAL LEPHONE.'

THE NEW TELEPHONE SERVICE BECAME EFFECTIVE AS OF APRIL 1ST AND PAYMENTS OF THE ADDITIONAL COST OF APPROXIMATELY $5.31 PER MONTH HAVE BEEN MADE OUT OF ECONOMIES IN THIS FUND EFFECTED DURING THE PAST YEAR.

THE NEW SYSTEM HAS SIX OUTLETS, FOUR IN THE CHANCERY, ONE IN THE MINISTER'S PRIVATE APARTMENT, AND ONE IN THE SERVICE QUARTERS OF THE LEGATION, WHERE INCOMING CALLS ARE ANSWERED AT NIGHT BY A CONTINGENT EMPLOYEE AND THEN TRANSFERRED TO THE MINISTER, WHEN HIS ATTENTION IS DEMANDED, AS IS THE CASE WITH MOST INCOMING CALLS.

IF, HOWEVER, THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL SHOULD FEEL THAT TOO MUCH PERSONAL CONVENIENCE IS INVOLVED THROUGH THE INSTALLATION OF A TELEPHONE IN MY PERSONAL QUARTERS, MAY I REQUEST AUTHORITY TO REMOVE THIS TELEPHONE TO ANOTHER PART OF THE BUILDING, TO A SMALL ROOM IN THE RESIDENCE QUARTERS WHICH, HOWEVER, IS REMOVED FROM THE PERSONAL LIVING QUARTERS OF THE MINISTER, AND ACTUALLY IS OUTFITTED WITH A DESK FOR EMERGENCY OFFICE PURPOSES, AS HAS BEEN FOR YEARS. IF NO SUCH TELEPHONE IS AUTHORIZED, I FEAR IT WILL BE NECESSARY FOR THE MINISTER TO PAY FOR THIS SERVICE, PERSONALLY--- ON AN APPORTIONATE BASIS--- AS OTHERWISE THE EFFICIENT TRANSACTION OF THE GOVERNMENT'S BUSINESS WILL BE IMPAIRED.

WITH REFERENCE TO THE INCREASED COSTS FOR THE MONTHS OF APRIL, MAY, AND JUNE OF THE PRESENT FISCAL YEAR, MAY I SUGGEST THAT THE ADDITIONAL COST TO THE GOVERNMENT OF $5.31 PER MONTH BE ALLOCATED EQUALLY BETWEEN THE SIX OUTLETS AND I REMIT ONE-SIXTH OF THE ADDITIONAL COST OR APPROXIMATELY $2.66.

FROM THE INFORMATION THUS PRESENTED, IT APPEARS THAT THE TELEPHONE CONNECTION IN THE PRIVATE RESIDENCE OF THE MINISTER IS NOT LIMITED TO INTERLEGATION AND CHANCERY COMMUNICATIONS, BUT IS AVAILABLE FOR USE WITHIN AND WITHOUT THE LEGATION AND IS OPEN TO PRIVATE AS WELL AS PUBLIC USE.

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.

IN VIEW OF THE INHIBITION CONTAINED IN THE STATUTE, PAYMENT OF RENTAL ON A TELEPHONE INSTALLED IN THE PRIVATE QUARTERS OF THE MINISTER IS NOT AUTHORIZED. 19 COMP. DEC. 350; 10 COMP. GEN. 428; 11 ID. 365. APPEARING THAT TELEPHONE FACILITIES ARE PROVIDED IN THE PUBLIC OFFICES OF THE LEGATION, PAYMENT FROM PUBLIC FUNDS FOR SERVICES IN A SMALL ROOM IN THE RESIDENCE QUARTERS OF THE MINISTER IS NOT AUTHORIZED, IT APPEARING THAT SUCH TELEPHONE WOULD BE AVAILABLE FOR PRIVATE AS WELL AS PUBLIC USE. THE FIRST TWO QUESTIONS PRESENTED IN YOUR LETTER OF JUNE 16, 1936, ARE ANSWERED ACCORDINGLY.

WITH RESPECT TO THE THIRD QUESTION, IT APPEARS THAT PRIOR TO APRIL 1, 1936, CHARGES FOR TELEPHONE SERVICES FOR THE LEGATION WERE APPROXIMATELY $170 PER ANNUM. IN MAKING REPAIRS TO THE LEGATION SHORTLY PRIOR TO APRIL 1, 1936, IT APPEARS THAT THE TELEPHONE COMPANY REWIRED THE LEGATION PROVIDING OUTLETS FOR THE INSTALLATION OF ADDITIONAL TELEPHONES BOTH UPSTAIRS AND DOWNSTAIRS WITHOUT CHARGE TO THE GOVERNMENT. THE TELEPHONE COMPANY INSTALLED, ALSO, A MORE MODERN SWITCHBOARD WHICH, IT IS STATED, CONTAINED GREATER FACILITIES FOR OUTSIDE CALLS, HAVING AN AN ADDITIONAL LINE, AND PERMITTED AUTOMATIC INTERLEGATION AND CHANCERY COMMUNICATIONS. IT APPEARS THE NEW SYSTEM HAS SIX OUTLETS, FOUR IN THE CHANCERY, ONE IN THE MINISTER'S PRIVATE APARTMENT, AND ONE IN THE SERVICE QUARTERS OF THE LEGATION. FOR THE NEW SERVICE THERE IS BEING CHARGED $80 PER ANNUM IN ADDITION TO THE CHARGE MADE FOR THE FORMER SERVICE, MAKING A TOTAL CHARGE OF APPROXIMATELY $250 PER ANNUM. IT IS SUGGESTED BY THE MINISTER THAT, IF THE TELEPHONE IN HIS PRIVATE QUARTERS AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE IS NOT AUTHORIZED UNDER EXISTING LAW, HE BE PERMITTED TO REMIT FOR THE MONTHS OF APRIL, MAY, AND JUNE 1936, ONE-SIXTH OF THE AMOUNT OF THE ADDITIONAL COST TO THE GOVERNMENT, OR $2.66. THE BASIS FOR THIS COMPUTATION IS NOT UNDERSTOOD AS IT WOULD APPEAR THAT THE TELEPHONE IN THE PRIVATE QUARTERS OF THE MINISTER SHOULD STAND ITS PROPORTIONATE SHARE OR ONE-SIXTH OF THE APPROXIMATE TELEPHONE EXPENSE OF $250 PER ANNUM, FOR SUCH PERIOD AS IT IS INSTALLED THEREIN.

IN CONNECTION WITH THE FURTHER CONSIDERATION OF QUESTION NO. 3, IT IS REQUESTED THAT THERE BE FURNISHED A REPORT AS TO THE TELEPHONE IN THE "SERVICE QUARTERS; " WHETHER SUCH QUARTERS ARE LOCATED IN THE PART OF THE LEGATION SET APART FOR THE PRIVATE USE OF THE MINISTER OR WHETHER THEY ARE A PART OF THE CHANCERY.