B-119210, AUGUST 16, 1954, 34 COMP. GEN. 69

B-119210: Aug 16, 1954

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1954: FURTHER REFERENCE IS MADE TO THE CHARGING BY YOUR DEPARTMENT OF REGISTRY FEES ON PREPAID OFFICIAL DOMESTIC LETTERS AND PARCELS MAILED AT WASHINGTON. THE MATTER OF REGISTRY FEES ON PREPAID AIR MAIL WAS DISPOSED OF BY OFFICE DECISION OF MAY 18. IT WAS HELD THEREIN THAT THE APPROPRIATIONS OF THAT AGENCY WERE AVAILABLE FOR PAYMENT OF REGISTRY FEES ON DOMESTIC MATTER SENT BY REGISTERED PREPAID AIR MAIL. THERE NOW REMAINS FOR CONSIDERATION THE QUESTION RAISED BY THE FEDERAL POWER COMMISSION AS TO WHETHER ITS APPROPRIATIONS ARE AVAILABLE FOR THE PAYMENT OF REGISTRY FEES ON PREPAID MAIL MATTERS SENT BY SURFACE CARRIER. IT WAS HELD IN THE DECISION OF FEBRUARY 1. AN EXCEPTION THERETO IS THE PREPAID AIR MAIL MATTER COVERED BY THE DECISION OF MAY 18.

B-119210, AUGUST 16, 1954, 34 COMP. GEN. 69

APPROPRIATIONS - AVAILABILITY - REGISTRY FEES ON DOMESTIC SURFACE MAIL - REIMBURSEMENT TO POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT REGISTRY FEES ON OFFICIAL DOMESTIC LETTERS AND PARCELS MAILED VIA SURFACE MAIL IN WASHINGTON, D.C., WHETHER SENT PREPAID OR AS PENALTY MAIL, MAY NOT BE PAID IN ABSENCE OF SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION; HOWEVER, IF OPERATING DIFFICULTIES WOULD RESULT FROM THE FREE REGISTRATION OF PREPAID MAIL, THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT MAY ISSUE A REGULATION WHICH REQUIRES THAT ALL REGISTERED SURFACE MAIL BE SENT UNDER THE PENALTY INDICIA.

ACTING COMPTROLLER GENERAL WEITZEL TO THE POSTMASTER GENERAL, AUGUST 16, 1954:

FURTHER REFERENCE IS MADE TO THE CHARGING BY YOUR DEPARTMENT OF REGISTRY FEES ON PREPAID OFFICIAL DOMESTIC LETTERS AND PARCELS MAILED AT WASHINGTON, D.C. YOUR DEPARTMENT FURNISHED AN EXPRESSION OF ITS VIEWS ON APRIL 27, 1954, WITH RESPECT TO PREPAID AIR MAIL AND ON MAY 21, 1954, WITH RESPECT TO PREPAID SURFACE MAIL.

THE MATTER OF REGISTRY FEES ON PREPAID AIR MAIL WAS DISPOSED OF BY OFFICE DECISION OF MAY 18, 1954, B-119219, 33 COMP. GEN. 557, TO THE ADMINISTRATOR, HOUSING AND HOME FINANCE AGENCY, COPY TO YOU. IT WAS HELD THEREIN THAT THE APPROPRIATIONS OF THAT AGENCY WERE AVAILABLE FOR PAYMENT OF REGISTRY FEES ON DOMESTIC MATTER SENT BY REGISTERED PREPAID AIR MAIL.

THERE NOW REMAINS FOR CONSIDERATION THE QUESTION RAISED BY THE FEDERAL POWER COMMISSION AS TO WHETHER ITS APPROPRIATIONS ARE AVAILABLE FOR THE PAYMENT OF REGISTRY FEES ON PREPAID MAIL MATTERS SENT BY SURFACE CARRIER.

IT WAS HELD IN THE DECISION OF FEBRUARY 1, 1954, B-118079, 33 COMP. GEN. 333, THAT THE ENACTMENT OF PUBLIC LAW 286, 83D CONGRESS, 67 STAT. 614, DID NOT REPEAL OR OTHERWISE ALTER THE VARIOUS LAWS PROVIDING FREE REGISTRY SERVICE TO THE ESTABLISHMENTS AND DEPARTMENTS IN WASHINGTON, D.C., AND THAT SUCH LAWS REMAINED IN FULL FORCE AND EFFECT. AN EXCEPTION THERETO IS THE PREPAID AIR MAIL MATTER COVERED BY THE DECISION OF MAY 18, 1954, SUPRA.

HOWEVER, YOUR DEPARTMENT NOW CONTENDS, IN EFFECT, THAT THIS EXCEPTION SHOULD BE EXTENDED TO ALLOW PAYMENT OF REGISTRY FEES ON PREPAID SURFACE MAIL. IT IS STATED IN THE LETTER OF MAY 21, 1954, FROM THE SOLICITOR, POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT, THAT:

BY SECTION 1 OF PUBLIC LAW 286, 83RD CONG., ST SESSION, 67 STAT. 614, (39 U.S.C. 231I (321I) AS AMENDED), CONGRESS PROVIDED THAT THIS DEPARTMENT WAS TO BE REIMBURSED BY THE OTHER DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES FOR THE COST OF THE MAIL SERVICE PERFORMED ON THEIR BEHALF. THAT SECTION ALSO AUTHORIZED THE POSTMASTER GENERAL TO ISSUE REGULATIONS WHEREBY THE EQUIVALENT AMOUNT OF POSTAGE WOULD BE TRANSFERRED FROM THE APPROPRIATIONS FOR THE OTHER DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES TO THE CREDIT OF THE POSTAL REVENUES. SEPTEMBER 1, 1953, THIS DEPARTMENT ISSUED REGULATIONS TO IMPLEMENT SECTION 321I. IN THESE REGULATIONS THE PRIVILEGE OF PREPAYING THEIR MAIL WAS EXTENDED TO THE OTHER DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES. HOWEVER, THIS DEPARTMENT INSISTS THAT ANY DEPARTMENT OR AGENCY WHICH TAKES ADVANTAGE OF THIS PRIVILEGE FOREGO FREE REGISTRY ON ALL OFFICIAL MAIL MATTER SO MAILED. THE OTHER DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES ARE UNWILLING TO ABIDE BY THIS CONDITION, THEN THIS DEPARTMENT HAS THE RIGHT TO WITHDRAW THE PRIVILEGE OF PERMITTING THEM TO PREPAY THEIR MAIL AND CAN INSIST THAT THE OTHER DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES OPERATE UNDER THE PROCEDURE PRESCRIBED BY THIS DEPARTMENT FOR ACCOUNTING AND PAYING FOR THEIR PENALTY MAIL MATTER. THIS DEPARTMENT IS OF THE VIEW THAT THE REGULATORY POWERS CONFERRED UPON IT BY SECTION 321I SUPPORTS THE IMPOSITION OF THIS CONDITION.

THIS DEPARTMENT DOES NOT BELIEVE ITS POSITION TO BE UNREASONABLE OR ARBITRARY. IF THE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES WHICH PREPAY POSTAGE DO NOT ALSO PAY THE REGISTRY FEE, OPERATING DIFFICULTIES WILL RESULT BECAUSE POSTAL EMPLOYEES WILL HAVE DIFFICULTY IN DETERMINING WHETHER PROPER POSTAGE HAS BEEN PAID ON REGISTERED ARTICLES.

IT IS APPARENT FROM THE ABOVE THAT THE SOLE DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE MAIL MATTER HERE IN QUESTION AND THE PENALTY MAIL WHICH IS NOT GRANTED FREE REGISTRY IS THAT THE MAIL IN QUESTION IS PREPAID, WHEREAS THE PENALTY MAIL IS ACCOUNTED FOR AND PAYMENT MADE SUBSEQUENTLY UNDER PRESCRIBED PROCEDURES. IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT THE EXEMPTION FOR AIR MAIL--- WHICH IS ALWAYS PREPAID--- WAS NOT BASED UPON THE MERE FACT OF PREPAYMENT BUT UPON THE FACT THAT THE AIR MAIL SERVICE WAS A SPECIAL SERVICE AND ONE NOT CONTEMPLATED BY THE CONGRESS AT THE TIME OF ENACTMENT OF THE LAWS PROVIDING FREE REGISTRY SERVICE, TOGETHER WITH THE LONG ESTABLISHED PRACTICE OF THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT IN CHARGING GOVERNMENT AGENCIES THE CUSTOMARY FEE FOR REGISTERING LETTERS AND PARCELS SENT BY AIR MAIL. COMP. GEN. 256.

OBVIOUSLY, NONE OF THE REASONS FOR THE EXCEPTION WITH RESPECT TO AIR MAIL ARE PRESENT IN THE INSTANT MATTER. THE PREPAYMENT OF MAIL IS NOT A "SPECIAL SERVICE" SUCH AS WAS INVOLVED IN THE AIR MAIL QUESTION BUT IS MERELY AN ALTERNATE METHOD OF PAYING FOR THE TRANSMISSION OF GOVERNMENT MAIL AS REQUIRED BY SECTION 1 OF PUBLIC LAW 286, 67 STAT. 614, SUPRA. ACCORDINGLY, IT MUST BE HELD THAT, IN THE ABSENCE OF SPECIFIC AUTHORITY IN THE APPROPRIATION ACTS OR OTHER LAW, THE APPROPRIATIONS OF THE VARIOUS DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES ARE NOT AVAILABLE FOR THE PAYMENT OF REGISTRY FEES ON OFFICIAL DOMESTIC LETTERS AND PARCELS MAILED VIA SURFACE MAIL IN WASHINGTON, D.C., WHETHER SENT PREPAID OR AS PENALTY MAIL.

HOWEVER, IF, AS SUGGESTED IN THE LETTER OF MAY 21, 1954, FROM THE SOLICITOR, OPERATING DIFFICULTIES WOULD RESULT FROM PERMITTING THE FREE REGISTRATION OF PREPAID MAIL, NO OBJECTION IS PERCEIVED TO THE ISSUANCE OF A REGULATION BY YOUR DEPARTMENT REQUIRING THAT ALL REGISTERED SURFACE MAIL BE SENT UNDER THE PENALTY INDICIA.

A COPY OF THIS DECISION IS BEING FURNISHED TO THE CHAIRMAN OF THE FEDERAL POWER COMMISSION FOR THE GUIDANCE OF HIS AGENCY.