A-95915, JULY 29, 1938, 18 COMP. GEN. 106

A-95915: Jul 29, 1938

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NORMAL COMMON CARRIER - ADMINISTRATIVE AUTHORITY AND GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE AUDIT ACTION AS A PRECEDENT GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE AUDIT ACTION UPON A PARTICULAR VOUCHER OR VOUCHERS IS NOT TO BE TAKEN AS A PRECEDENT FOR FUTURE ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION. APPROPRIATION AUTHORITY FOR PURCHASE OF AUTOMOBILES FOR TRANSPORTATION OF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICERS ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS IS NOT IN ITSELF SUFFICIENT TO AUTHORIZE PAYMENT FOR TAXICAB TRANSPORTATION AND THE PURCHASE OF COUPON BOOKS FOR SUCH TRANSPORTATION. IN THE ABSENCE OF A SHOWING THAT THE USUAL AND CHEAPER MODES OF TRANSPORTATION WERE EITHER NOT AVAILABLE. IS AS FOLLOWS: THERE ARE TRANSMITTED HEREWITH TWO VOUCHERS IN FAVOR OF THE YELLOW CAB COMPANY OF CHICAGO.

A-95915, JULY 29, 1938, 18 COMP. GEN. 106

TRANSPORTATION - TAXICABS V. NORMAL COMMON CARRIER - ADMINISTRATIVE AUTHORITY AND GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE AUDIT ACTION AS A PRECEDENT GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE AUDIT ACTION UPON A PARTICULAR VOUCHER OR VOUCHERS IS NOT TO BE TAKEN AS A PRECEDENT FOR FUTURE ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION. APPROPRIATION AUTHORITY FOR PURCHASE OF AUTOMOBILES FOR TRANSPORTATION OF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICERS ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS IS NOT IN ITSELF SUFFICIENT TO AUTHORIZE PAYMENT FOR TAXICAB TRANSPORTATION AND THE PURCHASE OF COUPON BOOKS FOR SUCH TRANSPORTATION, EVEN THOUGH STATED TO BE A LESS EXPENSIVE MODE OF TRANSPORTATION, IN THE PARTICULAR CIRCUMSTANCES, THAN THE PURCHASE OF AUTOMOBILES, IN THE ABSENCE OF A SHOWING THAT THE USUAL AND CHEAPER MODES OF TRANSPORTATION WERE EITHER NOT AVAILABLE, OR THAT THE GOVERNMENT BUSINESS AT HAND COULD NOT BE SATISFACTORILY PERFORMED BY SUCH MEANS.

ACTING COMPTROLLER GENERAL ELLIOTT TO THE ADMINISTRATOR, WORKS PROGRESS ADMINISTRATION, JULY 29, 1938:

YOUR LETTER OF JUNE 21, 1938, IS AS FOLLOWS:

THERE ARE TRANSMITTED HEREWITH TWO VOUCHERS IN FAVOR OF THE YELLOW CAB COMPANY OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, WHICH HAVE BEEN PREVIOUSLY CONSIDERED BY THE AUDIT DIVISION OF THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE AND RETURNED UNCERTIFIED FOR THE REASON SET FORTH IN THE PREAUDIT DIFFERENCE STATEMENT ATTACHED. ATTENTION IS ALSO INVITED TO THE DISALLOWANCE OF D.O. VOUCHERS NOS. 10813, 126551, AND 151915, PAID DURING THE PERIODS OF APRIL 11-20, 1935, JANUARY 1-10, 1936, AND JUNE 1-10, 1937, RESPECTIVELY, BY F. A. HOLMES, TREASURY DISBURSING CLERK FOR THE STATE OF ILLINOIS. THE VOUCHERS HEREWITH SUBMITTED, AND THOSE REFERRED TO, COVER THE PURCHASES OF BOOKS OF COUPONS FOR USE BY EMPLOYEES IN THE PERFORMANCE OF OFFICIAL TRAVEL IN THE CITY OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS.

THE PRACTICE OF PURCHASING TAXICAB COUPON BOOKS WAS ADOPTED BY THE WORKS PROGRESS ADMINISTRATION IN ILLINOIS IN THE EARLY STAGES OF THE PROGRAM BECAUSE, IN THE DETERMINATION OF THE STATE ADMINISTRATOR, THE USE OF SUCH FACILITIES FOR EMERGENCY TRAVEL, WHERE ADMINISTRATION PERSONNEL COULD NOT ADVANTAGEOUSLY PERFORM SUCH TRAVEL BY NORMAL COMMON CARRIER, WAS MORE ECONOMICAL AND ADVANTAGEOUS TO THE GOVERNMENT THAN THE PURCHASE OF ONE OR MORE AUTOMOBILES TO MEET SUCH NEEDS.

IT IS CLEAR THAT, PURSUANT TO THE SPECIFIC AUTHORITY IN THE EMERGENCY RELIEF ACTS OF 1935, 1936, AND 1937, THE STATE ADMINISTRATOR COULD HAVE PURCHASED ONE OR MORE AUTOMOBILES AND ENGAGED CHAUFFEURS, ETC., IN ORDER TO PROVIDE SATISFACTORY TRANSPORTATION. HIS DECISION TO EMPLOY THE LESS COSTLY PROCEDURE OF PURCHASING TAXICAB COUPON BOOKS WAS APPARENTLY TO THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE GOVERNMENT AND HAS UNDENIABLY RESULTED IN SUBSTANTIAL ECONOMIES.

THE PROPRIETY OF THE PRACTICE WAS QUESTIONED WHEN EXCEPTIONS WERE TAKEN TO VOUCHERS NOS. 1498, 2857, 20954, 51478, 54486, 79416, 78380, 87156, 89502, 118727, AND 162671, BUT, INASMUCH AS THE CITED VOUCHERS WERE PASSED FOR CREDIT IN THE DISBURSING OFFICER'S ACCOUNT UPON THE SUBMISSION OF ADDITIONAL INFORMATION, THE STATE OFFICE, NOT UNREASONABLY, ASSUMED THAT THE PRACTICE WAS PROPER AND MIGHT BE CONTINUED.

THIS OFFICE, OF COURSE, RECOGNIZES THAT THE ACTION OF THE AUDIT DOES NOT ESTABLISH A PRECEDENT, BUT IT IS READILY UNDERSTANDABLE THAT THE TO BELIEVE THAT THERE WOULD BE NO FURTHER OBJECTION TO THE PRACTICE OF PURCHASING TAXICAB COUPON BOOKS.

WHEN THE VOUCHERS REFERRED TO IN THE FIRST PARAGRAPH OF THIS LETTER WERE FINALLY DISALLOWED, THE PROCEDURE WAS DISCONTINUED AT THE INSTRUCTION OF THIS OFFICE AND NO FURTHER PURCHASES OF COUPON BOOKS HAVE BEEN MADE.

IN VIEW OF THE FACT THAT THE STATE OFFICE HAD WHAT IT BELIEVED TO BE SATISFACTORY ASSURANCE THAT THE PRACTISE WAS PERMISSIBLE, AND, FURTHER, SINCE THE USE OF COUPON BOOKS DID RESULT IN ACTUAL ECONOMY OVER ALTERNATE METHODS OF SECURING SUCH TRANSPORTATION, IT IS RESPECTFULLY REQUESTED THAT THE ATTACHED VOUCHERS BE GIVEN RECONSIDERATION WITH A VIEW TO CERTIFICATION FOR PAYMENT, AND THAT THE OTHER VOUCHERS CITED BE PASSED FOR CREDIT IN THE DISBURSING OFFICER'S ACCOUNT.

BUREAU VOUCHERS 252951 AND 258545, TRANSMITTED WITH YOUR LETTER, WERE ORIGINALLY SUBMITTED TO THIS OFFICE FOR AUDIT BEFORE PAYMENT, ADMINISTRATIVELY APPROVED FOR PAYMENT TO THE YELLOW CAB CO. IN THE RESPECTIVE AMOUNTS OF $29.40 AND $1.13, FOR COUPON BOOKS FURNISHED IN RESPONSE TO PURCHASE ORDERS ISSUED BY THE TREASURY DEPARTMENT, STATE PROCUREMENT OFFICE, CHICAGO, ILL., AND ALLEGEDLY USED FOR TRANSPORTATION OF SUPERVISORY OFFICERS OF THE WORKS PROGRESS ADMINISTRATION ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS IN CHICAGO. ADMINISTRATIVE STATEMENTS AND CERTIFICATES FURNISHED IN SUPPORT OF THE PROPOSED PAYMENTS WERE TO THE EFFECT THAT THE NATURE OF THE BUSINESS AND THE TIME INVOLVED WERE SUCH AS TO PRECLUDE THE USE OF THE USUAL MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION AND THAT IT WAS DETERMINED THAT THE USE OF TAXICABS BEST SERVED THE INTEREST OF THE GOVERNMENT. THE VOUCHERS WERE RETURNED APRIL 9, 1938, WITHOUT CERTIFICATION FOR PAYMENT FOR THE STATED REASONS THAT THERE WAS NO AUTHORITY FOR SUCH CERTIFICATION IN THE ABSENCE, AS TO VOUCHER 252951, OF A SHOWING OF THE FACTS WHICH REQUIRED THE USE OF TAXICABS IN LIEU OF CHEAPER TRANSPORTATION, AND AS TO VOUCHER 258545, OF A DETAILED EXPLANATION SHOWING HOW IT WAS DETERMINED THAT THE LOCAL MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION DID NOT ADEQUATELY SERVE THE PARTICULAR LOCALITY.

WITH REFERENCE TO THE STATEMENTS IN YOUR LETTER AS TO THE ACTION TAKEN BY THIS OFFICE ON OTHER VOUCHERS COVERING PAYMENTS FOR TAXICAB COUPONS, THE RECORDS SHOW THAT CREDIT FOR THE AMOUNTS PAID THE YELLOW CAB CO. ON VOUCHER 108136, APRIL 11-20, 1936, VOUCHER 151951, JUNE 1 10, 1936, AND VOUCHER 126551, JANUARY 1-10, 1937, ACCOUNTS OF F. A. HOLMES--- APPARENTLY THE VOUCHERS TO WHICH REFERENCE IS INTENDED IN THE FIRST PARAGRAPH OF YOUR LETTER--- WAS DISALLOWED FOR THE REASON THAT THE EVIDENCE SUBMITTED IN REPLY TO EXCEPTIONS TAKEN IN THE AUDIT WAS NOT CONSIDERED SUFFICIENT TO ESTABLISH THAT TRANSPORTATION BY TAXICAB WAS ESSENTIAL TO THE PERFORMANCE OF GOVERNMENT BUSINESS OR THAT CHEAPER TRANSPORTATION WAS NOT AVAILABLE.

THE RECORDS SHOW, ALSO, THAT CREDIT FOR $98 PAID TO THE YELLOW CAB CO. ON VOUCHER 1498 OF THE SAME DISBURSING OFFICER'S ACCOUNTS FOR OCTOBER 1-10, 1935, WAS ORIGINALLY SUSPENDED IN THE AUDIT BUT SUBSEQUENTLY ALLOWED UPON THE BASIS OF FURTHER EXPLANATIONS BY THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICERS. HOWEVER, THERE IS NO RECORD OF ANY EXCEPTION HAVING BEEN TAKEN BY THIS OFFICE IN THE AUDIT, TO PAYMENTS ON THE REMAINING VOUCHERS ENUMERATED IN THE FOURTH PARAGRAPH OF YOUR LETTER, OR, CONSEQUENTLY, OF THE FURNISHING OF ANY ADDITIONAL EVIDENCE RESULTING IN THE ALLOWANCE OF SUCH ITEMS. ANY EVENT, AS INDICATED IN YOUR LETTER THE AUDIT ACTION UPON A PARTICULAR VOUCHER OR VOUCHERS IS NOT TO BE TAKEN AS A PRECEDENT FOR FUTURE ADMINISTRATIVE ACTION.

IT MAY BE THAT UNDER AUTHORITY OF THE EMERGENCY RELIEF APPROPRIATION ACTS OF 1935, 1936, AND 1937, AUTOMOBILES COULD HAVE BEEN PURCHASED AND USED FOR OFFICIAL TRANSPORTATION REQUIRED BY YOUR ADMINISTRATION IN CHICAGO. HOWEVER, THE FACT, IF IT BE A FACT, THAT SUCH PROCEDURE MIGHT HAVE BEEN MORE EXPENSIVE IS NOT OF ITSELF SUFFICIENT TO AUTHORIZE PAYMENT FOR TAXICAB TRANSPORTATION.

IT HAS LONG BEEN HELD THAT TAXICABS MAY NOT BE SUBSTITUTED FOR CHEAPER MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION WHEN AVAILABLE UNLESS THE GOVERNMENT BUSINESS COULD NOT BE SATISFACTORILY PERFORMED BY SUCH MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION. SEE A-57680, OCTOBER 15, 1934. THE QUESTION HERE APPEARS WHETHER THE EVIDENCE FURNISHED IN SUPPORT OF THE PAYMENTS MADE OR PROPOSED TO BE MADE FOR TAXICAB TRANSPORTATION MAY BE ACCEPTED AS SHOWING THE OFFICIAL NECESSITY FOR SUCH TRANSPORTATION INSTEAD OF LESS EXPENSIVE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION FACILITIES USUALLY AVAILABLE.

WHILE THE MATTER IS NOT ENTIRELY FREE FROM DOUBT, IN VIEW OF ALL THE FACTS AND CIRCUMSTANCES, PARTICULARLY THE FACT THAT YOUR ADMINISTRATION HAS DISCONTINUED THE USE OF TAXICAB COUPON BOOKS IN CHICAGO, CREDIT WILL BE ALLOWED IN THE AUDIT FOR PAYMENTS MADE ON VOUCHERS 108136, 151915, AND 126551, AND BUREAU VOUCHERS 252951 AND 258545 WILL BE CERTIFIED FOR PAYMENT, IF OTHERWISE CORRECT.