B-109239, JULY 3, 1952, 32 COMP. GEN. 13

B-109239: Jul 3, 1952

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IS RESTRICTED TO ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS MADE ON OR PRIOR TO JULY 1. EVEN THOUGH SUCH PAYMENTS MAY HAVE OCCURRED AS A DIRECT RESULT OF ERRORS COMMITTED PRIOR TO JULY 1. 1952: REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF APRIL 4. REQUESTING THAT CONSIDERATION BE GIVEN TO ALLOWING CREDIT IN THE ACCOUNTS OF DISBURSING OFFICERS IN CERTAIN CASES WHERE EXCEPTIONS HAVE BEEN RAISED ON ACCOUNT OF ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS. ON THE SAME BASIS THAT RELIEF WAS EXTENDED BY THE ACT OF JULY 26. SINCE THE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH SUCH ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS WERE MADE ARE BELIEVED TO BE THE SAME REGARDLESS OF WHETHER SUCH PAYMENTS WERE MADE PRIOR OR SUBSEQUENT TO THAT DATE. IT IS POINTED OUT THAT EXCEPTIONS TAKEN DURING THE PERIOD COVERED BY THE ACT OF JULY 26.

B-109239, JULY 3, 1952, 32 COMP. GEN. 13

CERTIFYING AND DISBURSING OFFICERS - ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS - RELIEF UNDER THE ACT OF JULY 26, 1947 THE AUTHORITY GRANTED THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL BY THE ACT OF JULY 26, 1947, TO RELIEVE DISBURSING AND CERTIFYING OFFICERS OF THE WAR AND NAVY DEPARTMENTS FROM ACCOUNTABILITY OR RESPONSIBILITY FOR LOSSES OCCURRING BETWEEN SEPTEMBER 8, 1939, AND JULY 1, 1946, AND TO ALLOW CREDIT FOR PAYMENTS MADE IN GOOD FAITH DURING SUCH PERIOD NOTWITHSTANDING FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH EXISTING LAW OR REGULATIONS, IS RESTRICTED TO ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS MADE ON OR PRIOR TO JULY 1, 1946, AND IN THE ABSENCE OF ENABLING LEGISLATION MAY NOT BE EXTENDED TO INCLUDE ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS MADE SUBSEQUENT TO JULY 1, 1946, EVEN THOUGH SUCH PAYMENTS MAY HAVE OCCURRED AS A DIRECT RESULT OF ERRORS COMMITTED PRIOR TO JULY 1, 1946.

ASSISTANT COMPTROLLER GENERAL YATES TO THE SECRETARY OF THE ARMY, JULY 3, 1952:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF APRIL 4, 1952, REQUESTING THAT CONSIDERATION BE GIVEN TO ALLOWING CREDIT IN THE ACCOUNTS OF DISBURSING OFFICERS IN CERTAIN CASES WHERE EXCEPTIONS HAVE BEEN RAISED ON ACCOUNT OF ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS--- PARTICULARLY ALLOTMENT PAYMENTS--- MADE TO MILITARY PERSONNEL OR THEIR ALLOTTEES, AFTER JULY 1, 1946, ON THE SAME BASIS THAT RELIEF WAS EXTENDED BY THE ACT OF JULY 26, 1947, 61 STAT. 493, FOR ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS MADE ON OR PRIOR TO JULY 1, 1946, SINCE THE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH SUCH ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS WERE MADE ARE BELIEVED TO BE THE SAME REGARDLESS OF WHETHER SUCH PAYMENTS WERE MADE PRIOR OR SUBSEQUENT TO THAT DATE. IT IS POINTED OUT THAT EXCEPTIONS TAKEN DURING THE PERIOD COVERED BY THE ACT OF JULY 26, 1947 ( SEPTEMBER 8, 1939, TO JULY 1, 1946), HAVE BEEN REMOVED IN THE DISBURSING OFFICERS' ACCOUNTS, BUT THAT EXCEPTIONS GROWING OUT OF ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS TO THE SAME PAYEES AFTER JULY 1, 1946, ARE STILL OUTSTANDING IN THE ACCOUNTS OF DISBURSING OFFICERS.

AS AN EXAMPLE OF THE FOREGOING, YOU REFER TO ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS OF CLASS E ALLOTMENT IN THE AMOUNT OF $75 PER MONTH TO MRS. MARY F. CLAPHAM, ALLOTTEE OF MICHAEL C. CLAPHAM, FOR THE PERIOD JUNE 1944--- FOLLOWING THE LATTER'S RELEASE FROM ACTIVE DUTY IN MAY 1944--- THROUGH NOVEMBER 1947. IT APPEARS THAT ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS FOR THE PERIOD JUNE 1, 1944, THROUGH MAY 31, 1946, HAVE BEEN PASSED TO CREDIT IN THE DISBURSING OFFICERS' ACCOUNTS PURSUANT TO THE PROVISIONS OF SAID ACT OF JULY 26, 1946, WHICH AUTHORIZES THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL TO RELIEVE DISBURSING AND CERTIFYING OFFICERS FROM ACCOUNTABILITY OR RESPONSIBILITY FOR LOSSES, OCCURRING BETWEEN SEPTEMBER 8, 1939, AND JULY 1, 1946, AND TO ALLOW CREDIT FOR PAYMENTS MADE IN GOOD FAITH DURING SUCH PERIOD NOTWITHSTANDING FAILURE TO COMPLY WITH EXISTING LAW OR REGULATIONS.

THE SAID ACT OF JULY 26, 1946, PLACES A DEFINITE LIMITATION ON THE PERIOD DURING WHICH CREDIT FOR ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS MAY BE ALLOWED IN THE ACCOUNTS OF CERTIFYING AND DISBURSING OFFICERS AND SPECIFICALLY RESTRICTS SUCH RELIEF TO "PAYMENTS MADE * * * DURING SAID PERIOD," THAT IS, DURING THE PERIOD SEPTEMBER 8, 1939, TO JULY 1, 1946. IN VIEW OF THE DEFINITE RESTRICTION CONTAINED IN THE ACT, THIS OFFICE LEGALLY COULD NOT EXTEND THAT DATE TO INCLUDE ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS MADE SUBSEQUENT TO THAT DATE, EVEN THOUGH THEY MAY HAVE OCCURRED AS A DIRECT RESULT OF FAILURE TO DISCONTINUE ALLOTMENTS LONG PRIOR TO JULY 1, 1946. WHILE, AS POINTED OUT IN YOUR LETTER, THE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS WERE MADE MAY BE THE SAME REGARDLESS OF WHETHER SUCH PAYMENTS WERE MADE PRIOR OR SUBSEQUENT TO JULY 1, 1946, THE ACT SPECIFICALLY RESTRICTS RELIEF TO ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS MADE DURING A SPECIFIED PERIOD, AND I AM SURE YOU REALIZE THAT THIS OFFICE MAY NOT EXTEND THAT PERIOD IN PARTICULAR TYPES OF CASES; IT HAS NO POWERS OF DISPENSATION IN SUCH MATTERS BUT MUST APPLY THE STATUTE AS ENACTED BY THE CONGRESS.

IT IS UNDERSTOOD, HOWEVER, THAT THE 1952 LEGISLATIVE PROGRAM OF THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE INCLUDES PROPOSED LEGISLATION ENTITLED "A BILL TO AMEND THE ACT OF JULY 26, 1947 (61 STAT. 493), RELATING TO THE RELIEF OF CERTAIN DISBURSING OFFICERS," A DRAFT OF WHICH HAS BEEN SUBMITTED TO THE DIRECTOR, BUREAU OF THE BUDGET. SUCH DRAFT BILL WOULD AMEND SAID ACT OF JULY 26, 1947, BY STRIKING OUT THE TWO-YEAR LIMITATION PERIOD DURING WHICH THIS OFFICE WAS AUTHORIZED TO GRANT RELIEF, AND BY EXTENDING THE PERIOD OF PAYMENTS FOR WHICH RELIEF MAY BE GRANTED TO JULY 1, 1948. THE DRAFT ALSO WOULD PROVIDE THAT THE RELIEF SHOULD BE APPLICABLE WITH LIKE EFFECT TO DISBURSING AND CERTIFYING OFFICERS OF THE DEPARTMENTS OF THE ARMY, NAVY AND AIR FORCE. THE ENACTMENT OF SUCH PROPOSED LEGISLATION WOULD APPEAR TO ACCOMPLISH THE PURPOSE YOU HAVE IN MIND. IN A REPORT DATED MAY 19, 1952, B-55559, B-74774, TO THE DIRECTOR, BUREAU OF THE BUDGET, ON SUCH PROPOSED LEGISLATION THIS OFFICE ADVISED THAT IT WOULD NOT OPPOSE FAVORABLE CONSIDERATION OF SUCH A BILL. IN THE ABSENCE OF SOME SUCH LEGISLATION, HOWEVER, THERE WOULD APPEAR TO BE NO PRESENT LEGAL BASIS FOR THIS OFFICE TO ALLOW CREDIT FOR THE ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS IN QUESTION WHICH WERE MADE AFTER JULY 1, 1946.