B-119219, MAY 18, 1954, 33 COMP. GEN. 557

B-119219: May 18, 1954

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APPROPRIATIONS - AVAILABILITY - REGISTRY FEES ON DOMESTIC AIRMAIL - REIMBURSEMENT TO POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT THE APPROPRIATIONS OF THE VARIOUS GOVERNMENT AGENCIES ARE AVAILABLE FOR PAYMENT OF REGISTRY FEES ON DOMESTIC MATTER SENT BY REGISTERED AIRMAIL FROM WASHINGTON. NOTWITHSTANDING SUCH APPROPRIATIONS ARE NOT AVAILABLE FOR PAYMENT OF REGISTRY FEES ON DOMESTIC SURFACE MAIL. 1954: REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF MARCH 9. YOUR AGENCY IS CONTINUING TO PAY REGISTRY FEES ON DOMESTIC OFFICIAL LETTERS AND PARCELS DISPATCHED BY AIRMAIL ALTHOUGH IT IS FELT THAT UNDER DECISION OF FEBRUARY 1. YOU REQUEST TO BE ADVISED WHETHER THE APPROPRIATIONS OF YOUR AGENCY ARE AVAILABLE FOR THE PAYMENT OF REGISTRY FEES ON DOMESTIC MAILS AND PARCELS SENT BY REGISTERED AIRMAIL FROM WASHINGTON.

B-119219, MAY 18, 1954, 33 COMP. GEN. 557

APPROPRIATIONS - AVAILABILITY - REGISTRY FEES ON DOMESTIC AIRMAIL - REIMBURSEMENT TO POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT THE APPROPRIATIONS OF THE VARIOUS GOVERNMENT AGENCIES ARE AVAILABLE FOR PAYMENT OF REGISTRY FEES ON DOMESTIC MATTER SENT BY REGISTERED AIRMAIL FROM WASHINGTON, D.C., NOTWITHSTANDING SUCH APPROPRIATIONS ARE NOT AVAILABLE FOR PAYMENT OF REGISTRY FEES ON DOMESTIC SURFACE MAIL.

ACTING COMPTROLLER GENERAL WEITZEL TO THE ADMINISTRATOR, HOUSING AND HOME FINANCE AGENCY, MAY 18, 1954:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF MARCH 9, 1954, STATING THAT, AT THE INSISTENCE OF THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT, YOUR AGENCY IS CONTINUING TO PAY REGISTRY FEES ON DOMESTIC OFFICIAL LETTERS AND PARCELS DISPATCHED BY AIRMAIL ALTHOUGH IT IS FELT THAT UNDER DECISION OF FEBRUARY 1, 1954, B- 118079, 33 COMP. GEN. 333, THE AGENCY PROPERLY MAY NOT REQUIRED TO PAY SUCH REGISTRY FEES. IN VIEW THEREOF, YOU REQUEST TO BE ADVISED WHETHER THE APPROPRIATIONS OF YOUR AGENCY ARE AVAILABLE FOR THE PAYMENT OF REGISTRY FEES ON DOMESTIC MAILS AND PARCELS SENT BY REGISTERED AIRMAIL FROM WASHINGTON, D.C.

IT WAS HELD IN THE DECISION REFERRED TO ABOVE THAT THE VARIOUS LAWS EXTENDING FREE REGISTRATION PRIVILEGES TO THE GOVERNMENT AGENCIES IN WASHINGTON, D.C., STILL REMAIN IN FULL FORCE AND EFFECT AND, CONSEQUENTLY, APPROPRIATED FUNDS OF THE AGENCIES WERE NOT AVAILABLE FOR THE PAYMENT OF REGISTRY FEES ON SUCH MAIL. HOWEVER, THE VARIOUS LAWS PROVIDING FOR SUCH FREE REGISTRATION SERVICE HAVE NOT BEEN CONSTRUED BY THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT AS EXTENDING SUCH FREE SERVICE TO MATTERS SENT BY AIRMAIL. THIS CONNECTION, THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT, BY LETTER OF APRIL 27, 1954, REPORTED THAT---

THE PRIVILEGE OF FREE REGISTRATION WAS ORIGINALLY CONFERRED BY SECTION 3 OF THE ACT OF JULY 5, 1884, 23 STAT. 158. SEE 39 U.S.C. 321A. AT THAT TIME AIR MAIL SERVICE DID NOT EXIST. CONSEQUENTLY, WHEN AIR MAIL SERVICE CAME INTO EXISTENCE THE QUESTION AROSE WHETHER THE FREE REGISTRY PROVISION APPLIED TO A DIFFERENT TYPE OF MAIL SERVICE THAN THAT WHICH WAS IN EXISTENCE AT THE TIME OF THE PASSAGE OF THE ACT. IN THE DECISION APPEARING IN 4 COMP. GEN. 256, YOUR PREDECESSOR STATED THAT AIR MAIL SERVICE WAS A NEW AND SPECIAL SERVICE AND WAS ONE WHICH WAS NOT CONTEMPLATED IN 1877 WHEN CONGRESS PASSED THE ACT EXTENDING THE PENALTY PRIVILEGE TO THE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES OF THE GOVERNMENT. ACCORDINGLY, THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE AGREED WITH THE POSITION OF THIS DEPARTMENT THAT THE OTHER DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES COULD NOT SEND THEIR OFFICIAL MATTER BY AIR UNDER THE PENALTY PRIVILEGE. SIMILARLY, IT IS MY OPINION THAT THE FREE REGISTRATION PROVISIONS, WHICH ONLY CONTEMPLATED THE USE OF SURFACE MAIL AT THE TIME OF THEIR ENACTMENT, SHOULD NOT BE HELD TO EXTEND TO AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT TYPE OF SERVICE.

ON OCTOBER 8, 1924, A LITTLE OVER ONE MONTH AFTER THE RENDITION OF THE DECISION APPEARING IN 4 COMP. GEN. 256, THIS DEPARTMENT ISSUED INSTRUCTIONS TO ITS POSTMASTERS THAT OFFICIAL MATTER SENT BY AIR WAS NOT ENTITLED TO FREE REGISTRATION. SEE COPY OF LETTER TO THE POSTMASTER, WASHINGTON, D.C., DATED OCTOBER 8, 1924, ATTACHED. FOR ALMOST THIRTY YEARS THIS DEPARTMENT HAS HELD THAT THE PROVISIONS FOR THE FREE REGISTRATION OF MAIL DO NOT APPLY TO MAIL SENT BY AIR. ALL AGENCIES OF THE GOVERNMENT HAVE HERETOFORE ACQUIESCED IN THAT DETERMINATION. CHALLENGE HAS BEEN MADE THERETO BY THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE. PRESUMABLY, THE VARIOUS DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES HAVE APPRISED CONGRESS OF THE POSITION OF THIS DEPARTMENT IN THEIR BUDGETARY JUSTIFICATIONS AND CONGRESS HAS NEVER RAISED ANY OBJECTION THERETO. IT IS A WELL-KNOWN PRINCIPLE OF STATUTORY CONSTRUCTION THAT A CONTEMPORANEOUS,CONTINUOUS, AND UNIFORM INTERPRETATION OF A STATUTE BY THE AGENCY ENTRUSTED WITH ITS ENFORCEMENT IS ENTITLED TO GREAT WEIGHT AND WILL NOT BE DISTURBED UNLESS IT IS MANIFESTLY ERRONEOUS. U.S. V. AMERICAN TRUCKING ASSOCIATIONS, 310 U.S. 534, 549. IN VIEW OF YOUR OFFICE'S DETERMINATION THAT AIR MAIL SERVICE WAS TO BE CONSIDERED DIFFERENT FROM SURFACE MAIL SERVICE, IT IS MY OPINION THAT THIS DEPARTMENT'S LONG-STANDING, CONTEMPORANEOUS, AND UNIFORM INTERPRETATION CANNOT BE CONSIDERED MANIFESTLY ERRONEOUS.

INASMUCH AS THE REGISTRY FEES ON MATTERS SENT BY AIRMAIL ARE THE SAME AS THOSE ON MATTERS SENT BY SURFACE MAIL, THERE IS SOME DOUBT THAT THE CONCLUSION REACHED IN 4 COMP. GEN. 256 WITH RESPECT TO AIRMAIL POSTAGE WOULD NECESSARILY BE FOR APPLICATION TO REGISTRY FEES. HOWEVER, FOR THE REASONS SET FORTH IN THE LETTER FROM THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT AND SINCE THE PRIMARY PURPOSE OF THE ACT OF AUGUST 3, 1953, WAS TO REIMBURSE THE DEPARTMENT FOR SERVICE RENDERED OTHER GOVERNMENT AGENCIES, THERE APPEARS NO SOUND BASIS TO NOW HOLD THAT SUCH ACT SERVES TO RELIEVE THE VARIOUS GOVERNMENT AGENCIES FROM HAVING TO PAY REGISTRY FEES ON AIR-MAIL MATTER.

ACCORDINGLY, I HAVE TO ADVISE THAT APPROPRIATIONS OF YOUR AGENCY ARE AVAILABLE FOR PAYMENT OF REGISTRY FEES ON DOMESTIC MATTER SENT BY REGISTERED AIRMAIL.