A-79469, SEPTEMBER 8, 1936, 16 COMP. GEN. 217

A-79469: Sep 8, 1936

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THE SUPERINTENDENT'S LETTER IS AS FOLLOWS: 1. IT IS NOTED IN COMPTROLLER'S DECISION OF MAY 10. THAT THE STATEMENT IS MADE THAT THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH CO. IT THEREFORE APPEARS THAT THIS OFFICE MADE AN ILLEGAL PAYMENT OF FUNDS TO THE WESTERN UNION AND THIS OFFICE WILL DEDUCT FROM ITS NEXT PAYMENT TO THE WESTERN UNION THE AMOUNT OF ILLEGAL PAYMENTS FOR TELEGRAMS NOT PROPERLY SUPPORTED. 3. THERE IS INCLOSED HEREWITH A CERTIFICATE OF THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH CO. RELATIVE TO THE MESSAGES AND THIS OFFICE IS WILLING TO MAKE ANY FURTHER EFFORT WHICH MIGHT BE EXPECTED IN LIEU OF THE ORIGINALS OF SENT-PAID MESSAGES AND CARBON OR TISSUE COPIES OF RECEIVED-COLLECT MESSAGES. 4. THE COPIES ATTACHED TO VOUCHER NO. 1795 WHICH WERE FORWARDED TO THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE ARE SENT TO THIS OFFICE.

A-79469, SEPTEMBER 8, 1936, 16 COMP. GEN. 217

TELEGRAMS - ORIGINALS REQUIRED NEITHER THE DESTRUCTION BY A TELEGRAPH COMPANY OF ITS FILE OF MESSAGES AFTER THE EXPIRATION OF ONE YEAR, NOR THE EXPIRATION OF A YEAR BEFORE EXCEPTION TAKEN BY THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE TO A PAYMENT FOR TELEGRAPH SERVICES, CONSTITUTES ANY LEGAL JUSTIFICATION FOR THE DISBURSING OFFICER TO MAKE PAYMENT WITHOUT THE ORIGINALS OF THE OUTGOING MESSAGES INVOLVED, OR FOR THE COMPANY OFFICIALS' FAILURE TO SUBMIT SAID ORIGINALS WITH THE BILL.

ACTING COMPTROLLER GENERAL ELLIOTT TO W. J. BRAUN, JR., UNITED STATES LIGHTHOUSE SERVICE, SEPTEMBER 8, 1936:

THERE HAS BEEN RECEIVED YOUR REPLY DATED JULY 11, 1936, ON FORM 2085, FORWARDING LETTER OF THE SAME DATE FROM THE SUPERINTENDENT OF LIGHTHOUSES, NEW ORLEANS, IN REFERENCE TO DISALLOWANCE OF CREDIT FOR $9.51, PAID TO WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH COMPANY, NEW ORLEANS, ON VOUCHER 1795, OF YOUR FEBRUARY 1935 ACCOUNTS. THE SUPERINTENDENT'S LETTER IS AS FOLLOWS:

1. REPLYING TO NOTICE OF EXCEPTION, VOUCHER NO. 1795, FEBRUARY 1935 ACCOUNTS, IT IS NOTED IN COMPTROLLER'S DECISION OF MAY 10, 1935, THAT THE STATEMENT IS MADE THAT THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH CO. HAD RECOGNIZED THE PRINCIPLE ENUNCIATED IN THE DECISION AND HAD INCORPORATED IN ITS TARIFF BOOK OF 1934 INSTRUCTIONS WHICH REQUIRED THAT THE MONTHLY BILL SHOULD BE SUPPORTED BY THE ORIGINALS OF SENT PAID MESSAGES AND THE CARBON OR TISSUE COPIES OF RECEIVED-COLLECT MESSAGES.

2. IT THEREFORE APPEARS THAT THIS OFFICE MADE AN ILLEGAL PAYMENT OF FUNDS TO THE WESTERN UNION AND THIS OFFICE WILL DEDUCT FROM ITS NEXT PAYMENT TO THE WESTERN UNION THE AMOUNT OF ILLEGAL PAYMENTS FOR TELEGRAMS NOT PROPERLY SUPPORTED.

3. THERE IS INCLOSED HEREWITH A CERTIFICATE OF THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH CO. RELATIVE TO THE MESSAGES AND THIS OFFICE IS WILLING TO MAKE ANY FURTHER EFFORT WHICH MIGHT BE EXPECTED IN LIEU OF THE ORIGINALS OF SENT-PAID MESSAGES AND CARBON OR TISSUE COPIES OF RECEIVED-COLLECT MESSAGES.

4. IF CONSIDERED SATISFACTORY BY THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE, AND THE COPIES ATTACHED TO VOUCHER NO. 1795 WHICH WERE FORWARDED TO THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE ARE SENT TO THIS OFFICE, CERTIFICATION BY THIS OFFICE AND BY THE WESTERN UNION WILL BE SECURED WHICH MIGHT BE DEEMED SUFFICIENT SUPPORT OF THE VALIDITY OF THE MESSAGES IN LIEU OF THE ORIGINALS OF OUTGOING MESSAGES, ETC.

5. THE NECESSARY SUPPORTING ORIGINALS OF THE TELEGRAMS IN QUESTION COULD HAVE BEEN SECURED IF THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE HAD NOT TAKEN OVER A YEAR TO REACH THE VOUCHER IN QUESTION AND ADVISE AS TO THE DISALLOWANCE. THIS DELAY MAKES IT IMPOSSIBLE TO PROVIDE THE ORIGINAL SUPPORTING MESSAGES REQUIRED AND AS A MATTER OF FACT IT WOULD SEEM THAT SOME OTHER QUALIFIED EVIDENCE MIGHT BE ACCEPTED AT THIS TIME.

6. IF THIS IS NOT DONE THERE DOES NOT SEEM TO BE ANY REASON WHY THIS OFFICE SHOULD NOT DEDUCT FROM THE NEXT VOUCHER OF THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH CO. THE AMOUNT WHICH IS DISALLOWED AND ADVICE IS REQUESTED WHETHER OR NOT THIS WILL BE ACCEPTED AS A SETTLEMENT OF THE AMOUNTS WHICH HAVE BEEN DISALLOWED.

7. NOTWITHSTANDING THE DECISION OF THE COMPTROLLER DATED MAY 10, 1935, AND THE PREVIOUS DECISIONS REFERRED TO THEREIN, THIS OFFICE IS ABLE TO STATE THAT VOUCHERS PREPARED EXACTLY AS THE PRESENT VOUCHER WAS PREPARED WITH NO BETTER SUPPORTING EVIDENCE ATTACHED THERETO HAVE BEEN APPROVED AND PASSED BY THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS AND THERE WAS NO REASON TO EXPECT THAT THE VOUCHER NOW UNDER CONSIDERATION WOULD BE DISALLOWED.

THE DISALLOWANCE IN QUESTION WAS FOR THE REASON THAT THE ORIGINAL COPIES OF OUTGOING MESSAGES, AGGREGATING $9.51, WERE NOT FURNISHED WITH THE VOUCHER, CITING 22 COMP. DEC. 26 AND 14 COMP. GEN. 825, AS AUTHORITY FOR THE ACTION TAKEN.

THE LONG ESTABLISHED ACCOUNTING RULE IS THAT CLAIMS FOR TELEGRAPH SERVICES MUST BE SUPPORTED BY THE ORIGINALS OF THE OUTGOING MESSAGES. IS PERTINENT TO NOTE HERE THAT, EVEN UNDER ITS OWN REGULATIONS, THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH CO. REQUIRES THAT CLAIMS OF A LOCAL OFFICE OF THE COMPANY ON THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT AGENCY FOR OUTGOING OFFICIAL MESSAGES MUST BE SUPPORTED BY THE ORIGINAL MESSAGES. THE FACT THAT THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH CO. DESTROYS ITS FILE OF MESSAGES AFTER THE EXPIRATION OF 1 YEAR, AND THAT EXCEPTION WAS NOT TAKEN TO THE PAYMENT HERE IN QUESTION WITHIN 1 YEAR FROM THE DATE OF PAYMENT CONSTITUTES NO LEGAL JUSTIFICATION FOR THE FAILURE OF THE OFFICIALS OF THE COMPANY TO SUBMIT THE ORIGINAL MESSAGES WITH THE BILL, OR FOR THE DISBURSING OFFICER TO MAKE PAYMENT ON A VOUCHER NOT PROPERLY SUPPORTED AS REQUIRED BY REGULATION.

WITH RESPECT TO THE REQUEST MADE FOR THE RETURN OF THE COPIES OF THE MESSAGES ATTACHED TO THE VOUCHER FOR RECERTIFICATION BY YOUR OFFICE, AND BY THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH CO., YOU ARE ADVISED THAT SUCH REQUEST MAY NOT BE COMPLIED WITH FOR THE REASON THAT THE VOUCHERS WITH APPENDAGES FURNISHED IN SUPPORT THEREOF ARE REQUIRED BY LAW TO BE RETAINED AS PERMANENT RECORDS OF THIS OFFICE. FURTHERMORE, THE RECERTIFICATION, AS SUGGESTED, WOULD CONSTITUTE NO BETTER EVIDENCE THAN THE CERTIFICATION ALREADY ON FILE WITH THE VOUCHER.

WHATEVER THE AUDIT ACTION MAY HAVE BEEN IN THE PAST IN RESPECT OF THIS CLASS OF PAYMENT, AS ALLEGED IN THE SEVENTH PARAGRAPH OF THE LETTER ABOVE QUOTED, UNDER EXISTING LAW SUCH ACTION DOES NOT CONSTITUTE PRECEDENTS FOR DISBURSING OFFICERS TO FOLLOW.

IT MUST BE HELD, THEREFORE, THAT THE AUDIT ACTION HERE WAS CORRECT, AND MUST BE, AND IS SUSTAINED.