A-80380, APRIL 12, 1943, 22 COMP. GEN. 952

A-80380: Apr 12, 1943

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IF IT BE FOUND THAT AN ITEM WAS ALLOWED IN THE PRIOR SETTLEMENT WHICH SHOULD HAVE BEEN DISALLOWED. YOU ARE ADVISED THAT. THE AUTHORITY OF THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL TO REVISE A SETTLEMENT OF A CLAIM BY THIS OFFICE IS INHERENT (CF. IS DERIVED FROM THE STATUTORY MANDATE TO SETTLE AND ADJUST ALL CLAIMS BY OR AGAINST THE UNITED STATES. WHICH YOU SUGGEST IS DISTINGUISHABLE UPON A SUPPOSED CHANGE IN THE PERTINENT FUNCTIONS OF THE ACCOUNTING OFFICERS SINCE THAT TIME. THERE CAN BE NO DOUBT THAT THE REOPENING WAS NOT ONLY AUTHORIZED. THE RESTATEMENT THEREOF AS MADE WAS AUTHORIZED UPON THE UNIVERSAL RULE THAT THE REOPENING OF A CLOSED ACCOUNT REOPENS ALL ENTRIES THEREIN. THE COURTS OF THE UNITED STATES DEFINITELY HAVE ESTABLISHED THE RULE THAT MONEY PAID OUT UPON AN ERRONEOUS DETERMINATION OF LAW BY THE OFFICERS OF THE GOVERNMENT.

A-80380, APRIL 12, 1943, 22 COMP. GEN. 952

GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE - AUTHORITY TO REOPEN AND REVISE PRIOR CLAIM SETTLEMENTS UNDER SECTION 236, REVISED STATUTES, AS AMENDED, REQUIRING THAT ALL CLAIMS BY AND AGAINST THE UNITED STATES BE SETTLED AND ADJUSTED IN THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE, THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL HAS INHERENT AUTHORITY TO REVISE A SETTLEMENT OF A CLAIM ISSUED BY THIS OFFICE. MONEY PAID OUT BY THE UNITED STATES UPON AN ERRONEOUS DETERMINATION OF LAW BY GOVERNMENT OFFICERS MAY BE RECOVERED BACK FROM THE RECIPIENT. UPON REQUEST BY A CLAIMANT FOR REVIEW OF A SETTLEMENT ISSUED BY THIS OFFICE, THE ENTIRE ACCOUNT PROPERLY MAY BE REOPENED FOR RECONSIDERATION AND, IF IT BE FOUND THAT AN ITEM WAS ALLOWED IN THE PRIOR SETTLEMENT WHICH SHOULD HAVE BEEN DISALLOWED, COLLECTION THEREOF MAY BE EFFECTED BY SET-OFF AGAINST ANY AMOUNTS OTHERWISE DUE.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL WARREN TO CHARLES KRUSZEWSKI, APRIL 12, 1943:

BY LETTER DATED MARCH 28, 1943, THE HONORABLE TOM CONNALLY, UNITED STATES SENATE, FORWARDED HERE FOR CONSIDERATION YOUR LETTER OF MARCH 17, 1943, RELATIVE TO MY LETTER OF MARCH 4, 1943, TO YOU, WHICH REVIEWED THE ACTION HERETOFORE TAKEN BY THIS OFFICE IN EFFECTING COLLECTION, BY OFFSET FROM AMOUNTS OTHERWISE DUE YOU, OF A BALANCE OF INDEBTEDNESS IN THE AMOUNT OF $680.68, WHICH, AS DETERMINED BY DECISIONS OF THE FORMER ACTING COMPTROLLER GENERAL OF THE UNITED STATES, DATED MAY 22, 1939, A-80380, A- 96980, ET SEQ., AROSE FROM THE SETTLEMENT OF THIS OFFICE DATED DECEMBER 3, 1937, ALLOWING YOUR CLAIM FOR ALLEGED ADDITIONAL LOSSES DUE TO APPRECIATION OF FOREIGN CURRENCY ON YOUR SALARY, QUARTERS ALLOWANCE AND PER DIEM, OVER AND ABOVE THE TRUE EXCHANGE LOSSES LAWFULLY PAID ON THE SAME ITEMS IN 1934. YOU NOW QUESTION THE AUTHORITY OF THIS OFFICE TO REOPEN THE SETTLEMENT THUS ERRONEOUSLY MADE IN DECEMBER 1937.

YOU ARE ADVISED THAT, IN ACCORDANCE WITH SETTLED PRECEDENTS OF MANY YEARS' STANDING, THE AUTHORITY OF THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL TO REVISE A SETTLEMENT OF A CLAIM BY THIS OFFICE IS INHERENT (CF. MORGAN V. HINES ( D.C. APP. 1940) 113 F. (2D) 849), AND IS DERIVED FROM THE STATUTORY MANDATE TO SETTLE AND ADJUST ALL CLAIMS BY OR AGAINST THE UNITED STATES, AS DIRECTED BY SECTION 236 OF THE REVISED STATUTES, AS AMENDED- - A PROVISION WHICH, IT MAY BE OBSERVED, STILL READS IN SUBSTANCE AS IT DID IN 1880, AT THE TIME OF THE DECISION OF THE SUPREME COURT IN MCELRATH V. UNITED STATES, 102 U.S. 426, WHICH YOU SUGGEST IS DISTINGUISHABLE UPON A SUPPOSED CHANGE IN THE PERTINENT FUNCTIONS OF THE ACCOUNTING OFFICERS SINCE THAT TIME.

THERE CAN BE NO DOUBT THAT THE REOPENING WAS NOT ONLY AUTHORIZED, BUT REQUIRED, IN RESPONSE TO YOUR CLAIM DATED JANUARY 4, 1939, FOR REPAYMENT OF ITEMS AGGREGATING $20.22 PAID AS EXCHANGE LOSSES ON THE SAME VOUCHERS IN 1934, AND LATER REFUNDED BY YOU. THEREFORE, EVEN ASSUMING THE ACCOUNT HAD BEEN FINALLY SETTLED IN DECEMBER 1937, THE RESTATEMENT THEREOF AS MADE WAS AUTHORIZED UPON THE UNIVERSAL RULE THAT THE REOPENING OF A CLOSED ACCOUNT REOPENS ALL ENTRIES THEREIN, BOTH DEBIT AND CREDIT, FOR RECONSIDERATION. 1 C.J.S. 739.

IN ANY EVENT, THE COURTS OF THE UNITED STATES DEFINITELY HAVE ESTABLISHED THE RULE THAT MONEY PAID OUT UPON AN ERRONEOUS DETERMINATION OF LAW BY THE OFFICERS OF THE GOVERNMENT, WHETHER WITH OR WITHOUT JURISDICTION OF THE PARTICULAR SUBJECT MATTER, MAY BE RECOVERED BACK FROM THE RECIPIENT. UNITED STATES V. GUDEWICZ (1942), 45 F.1SUPP. 787, FOLLOWING UNITED STATES V. BENTLEY ( C.C.A. 2, 1939) 107 F. (2D) 382, WHERE THE AUTHORITIES CITED WERE UNITED STATES V. BURCHARD, 125 U.S. 176, UNITED STATES V. STAHL, 151 U.S. 366, WISCONSIN CENTRAL R.R. CO. V. UNITED STATES, 164 U.S. 190, UNITED STATES V. WURTS, 303 U.S. 414 (SEMBLE), AND HEIDT V. UNITED STATES ( C.C.A. 5), 56 F. (2D) 559. SEE ALSO, ALLEN V. UNITED STATES, 204 U.S. 581. THE CONTRARY SUGGESTION YOU HAVE NOTED IN MULLETT V. UNITED STATES (1886), 21 C.1CLS. 485, WHICH WAS PRIOR TO ALL THE DECISIONS JUST CITED, IS NO LONGER OF EFFECT. THE FURTHER RULING TO WHICH YOU REFER, BUTTE, A. AND P. RY. CO. V. UNITED STATES, 290 U.S. 127, IS IRRELEVANT, AS POINTED OUT IN THE OPINION IN THE BENTLEY CASE, 107 F. (2D) AT PAGE 384.

IN THE LIGHT OF THE LAW THUS ESTABLISHED, THERE CAN BE NO QUESTION BUT THAT THE SETTLEMENT LAWFULLY WAS REOPENED AND THE ERRONEOUS PAYMENT LEGALLY WAS COLLECTED BACK. ACCORDINGLY, UPON THE RECORD SHOWN, THE ACCOUNT NOW HAS BEEN CORRECTLY SETTLED AND THIS OFFICE CONTEMPLATES NO FURTHER ACTION IN THE MATTER.

WITHOUT FURTHER ADVERTING TO THE MERITS OF THE PAYMENT IN QUESTION, IT IS OF INTEREST THAT THE RULING OF THIS OFFICE AS TO EXCHANGE LOSSES ON REGISTERED GERMAN MARKS, AS FINALLY APPLIED IN YOUR CASE, SUBSEQUENTLY WAS INCORPORATED IN THE REGULATIONS OF THE PRESIDENT, E.O. 7972, SEPTEMBER 15, 1938, PAR. 3 (D).