A-87705, JULY 31, 1937, 17 COMP. GEN. 87

A-87705: Jul 31, 1937

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CONTRACTS - COMMERCIAL MESSENGER SERVICE - SUPPLEMENTING GOVERNMENT WIRE PAYMENT IS AUTHORIZED FOR COMMERCIAL MESSENGER SERVICE PROCURED BY THE STATE DEPARTMENT SOLELY TO SUPPLEMENT SERVICE ORDINARILY PERFORMED WITH USE OF GOVERNMENT WIRES REGULARLY MAINTAINED BETWEEN THE NAVAL COMMUNICATIONS SERVICE AND THE DEPARTMENT'S COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE. THE COMMERCIAL SERVICE BEING USED ONLY WHEN SUCH WIRES ARE NOT AVAILABLE. IS AS FOLLOWS: THE DEPARTMENT HAS RECEIVED PREAUDIT DIFFERENCE STATEMENT OF JUNE 28. AS A BASIS FOR WITHHOLDING CERTIFICATION OF THE VOUCHER THERE IS CITED DECISION A- 86440 OF JUNE 2. IMPORTANT DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR TELEGRAMS FOR THIS DEPARTMENT ARE RECEIVED VIA THE NAVAL COMMUNICATIONS SERVICE BUT IT IS NOT POSSIBLE FOR THIS DEPARTMENT.

A-87705, JULY 31, 1937, 17 COMP. GEN. 87

CONTRACTS - COMMERCIAL MESSENGER SERVICE - SUPPLEMENTING GOVERNMENT WIRE PAYMENT IS AUTHORIZED FOR COMMERCIAL MESSENGER SERVICE PROCURED BY THE STATE DEPARTMENT SOLELY TO SUPPLEMENT SERVICE ORDINARILY PERFORMED WITH USE OF GOVERNMENT WIRES REGULARLY MAINTAINED BETWEEN THE NAVAL COMMUNICATIONS SERVICE AND THE DEPARTMENT'S COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE, THE COMMERCIAL SERVICE BEING USED ONLY WHEN SUCH WIRES ARE NOT AVAILABLE.

ACTING COMPTROLLER GENERAL ELLIOTT TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE, JULY 31, 1937:

YOUR LETTER OF JULY 10, 1937, IS AS FOLLOWS:

THE DEPARTMENT HAS RECEIVED PREAUDIT DIFFERENCE STATEMENT OF JUNE 28, 1937, RETURNING WITHOUT CERTIFICATION A VOUCHER FOR TELEGRAPH MESSENGER SERVICE IN THE AMOUNT OF $7.05 FOR THE MONTH OF APRIL 1937. AS A BASIS FOR WITHHOLDING CERTIFICATION OF THE VOUCHER THERE IS CITED DECISION A- 86440 OF JUNE 2, 1937, ADDRESSED TO THE CHAIRMAN OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY BOARD. THERE WOULD NOT SEEM TO BE INVOLVED IN THIS DECISION THE EMERGENT NATURE OF THE SERVICE REQUIRED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE.

THIS DEPARTMENT MAINTAINS A DIRECT MORSE WIRE BETWEEN THE COMMUNICATION OFFICE OF THE DEPARTMENT AND THE NAVAL COMMUNICATIONS SERVICE. IMPORTANT DIPLOMATIC AND CONSULAR TELEGRAMS FOR THIS DEPARTMENT ARE RECEIVED VIA THE NAVAL COMMUNICATIONS SERVICE BUT IT IS NOT POSSIBLE FOR THIS DEPARTMENT, ON ACCOUNT OF THE LARGE VOLUME OF TRAFFIC, TO RECEIVE ALL THE MESSAGES OVER THIS WIRE FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS (1) WHEN THE TELEGRAPH OPERATORS OF THE DEPARTMENT ARE ENGAGED IN RECEIVING IMPORTANT MESSAGES ON OTHER WIRES WHICH PRECLUDES ANSWERING THE NAVY DEPARTMENT WIRE, AND (2) THE FACT THAT THE NAVY DEPARTMENT DOES NOT HAVE AN OPERATOR AVAILABLE TO MAN THIS WIRE BETWEEN 10 P.M. AND 7 A.M. ON WEEK DAYS AND BETWEEN 12 NOON AND 7 A.M. ON SUNDAYS AND HOLIDAYS. IT HAS BEEN THE PRACTICE OVER A PERIOD OF YEARS FOR THE NAVY DEPARTMENT TO UTILIZE THE MESSENGER SERVICE OF THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH COMPANY AND THE POSTAL TELEGRAPH COMPANY TO EFFECT DELIVERY OF THESE TELEGRAMS. THE RECORDS DO NOT INDICATE THAT THE PRACTICE PREVIOUSLY HAS BEEN QUESTIONED.

THE COST OF THIS SERVICE DURING THE FISCAL YEAR 1936 WAS $83.60; THE COST THROUGH MAY OF THE FISCAL YEAR 1937 WAS $135.35. IT IS OBVIOUS THAT THE PERMANENT APPOINTMENT OF A MESSENGER TO SUPPLEMENT THE EXISTING TELEGRAPH STAFF WOULD NOT BE IN THE INTEREST OF ECONOMY. THE VITAL FACTOR INVOLVED, HOWEVER, IN ORDER TO AVOID EMBARRASSMENT TO THE GOVERNMENT AND MATERIAL HINDRANCE TO THE DEPARTMENT IN THE TRANSACTION OF THE PUBLIC BUSINESS, IS THE EXPEDITION OF DELIVERY. THE PRESENT METHOD AND THAT WHICH COULD BE EMPLOYED BY THE APPOINTMENT OF A MESSENGER ADMITS OF NO COMPARISON.

IN THE CIRCUMSTANCES, I TRUST THAT WITH THE ADDITIONAL INFORMATION NOW BEFORE YOU, PAYMENT MAY BE AUTHORIZED FOR THE EXPENSES ACTUALLY INCURRED AND THE DEPARTMENT PERMITTED TO CONTINUE PAYMENTS FOR SUCH SERVICE FROM THE APPROPRIATION "CONTINGENT EXPENSES, DEPARTMENT OF STATE," AT LEAST UNTIL SPECIFIC AUTHORITY CAN BE OBTAINED FROM THE CONGRESS.

IN DECISION OF JULY 24, 1937, A-86440, RECONSIDERING DECISION OF JUNE 2, 1937, 16 COMP. GEN. 1049, TO THE CHAIRMAN, SOCIAL SECURITY BOARD, CITED BY YOU, IT WAS STATED:

IT IS UNDERSTOOD THAT YOUR BOARD--- THE SAME AS OTHER EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ESTABLISHMENTS AT THE SEAT OF GOVERNMENT--- EMPLOYS A REGULAR FORCE OF MESSENGERS WHOSE SALARIES ARE PAID ON A PER ANNUM BASIS, AND WHO, UPON THAT BASIS, MAY BE REQUIRED TO REMAIN UPON DUTY SO LONG AS ANY OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE OF THE ESTABLISHMENT MIGHT POSSIBLY HAVE NEED FOR THEIR SERVICES--- AND WITHOUT ADDITIONAL COMPENSATION. HENCE, AN ARRANGEMENT IN ADVANCE WITH THE WESTERN UNION OR POSTAL TELEGRAPH, AS PROPOSED, FOR FURNISHING MESSENGER SERVICE "AFTER OFFICIAL OFFICE HOURS" IS NOT AUTHORIZED.

THE DECISION IN 3 COMP. GEN. 436 WAS SPECIFICALLY DIRECTED TO THE SITUATION IN A FIELD OFFICE WHICH MAINTAINED NO REGULAR MESSENGERS. WHERE SUCH A SITUATION PREVAILS IN A FIELD OFFICE, THIS OFFICE WOULD NOT BE REQUIRED TO OBJECT TO THE CONTRACTING WITH AN OUTSIDE AGENCY FOR MESSENGER SERVICE. SAID DECISION IS NOT FOR APPLICATION, HOWEVER, AT THE SEAT OF GOVERNMENT, WHERE REGULAR MESSENGER FORCES ARE MAINTAINED. ACCORDINGLY THE DECISION OF JUNE 2, 1937, SO FAR AS IT RELATED TO MESSENGER SERVICE OF YOUR BOARD IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, MUST BE, AND IS, AFFIRMED.

IN THE EVENT THERE SHOULD ARISE A REAL EMERGENCY NECESSITATING THE USE OF WESTERN UNION OR POSTAL TELEGRAPH MESSENGER SERVICE BY YOUR BOARD IN SOME PARTICULAR INSTANCE, THERE MIGHT BE FOR APPLICATION, UPON A PROPER SHOWING OF THE FACTS, THE DECISION OF MARCH 8, 1918, 24 COMP. DEC. 514.

IN THE CITED DECISION OF MARCH 8, 1918, 24 COMP. DEC. 514, IT WAS HELD AS FOLLOWS (QUOTING FROM THE SYLLABUS):

THE EMPLOYMENT OF A MESSENGER-SERVICE COMPANY FOR THE DISTRIBUTION OF OFFICIAL LETTERS DURING AN EMERGENCY DOES NOT CONSTITUTE PERSONS EMPLOYED BY THAT COMPANY AN ADDITION TO THE EXECUTIVE FORCE OF THE DEPARTMENT OF THE GOVERNMENT FOR WHICH THE SERVICE IS RENDERED, AND HENCE IS NOT IN VIOLATION OF THE ACT OF AUGUST 5, 1882, PROHIBITING THE EMPLOYMENT IN ANY DEPARTMENT OF PERSONAL SERVICES IN EXCESS OF THOSE SPECIFICALLY APPROPRIATED FOR SUCH DEPARTMENT.

IT IS UNDERSTOOD FROM YOUR LETTER, SUPRA, THAT THE USE OF THE MESSENGER SERVICE OF THE TWO COMPANIES IS AVAILED OF ONLY FOR THE PURPOSE OF TRANSMITTING TELEGRAMS BETWEEN THE NAVAL COMMUNICATIONS SERVICE AND THE COMMUNICATION OFFICE OF YOUR DEPARTMENT WHEN WIRES ARE NOT AVAILABLE THEREFOR. IF SUCH ARE THE FACTS, VOUCHERS COVERING SUCH SERVICES WILL BE CERTIFIED FOR PAYMENT, IF OTHERWISE REGULAR.