B-119524, JULY 29, 1954, 34 COMP. GEN. 52

B-119524: Jul 29, 1954

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A CERTIFYING OFFICER WHO CERTIFIED FOR PAYMENT A TRAVEL EXPENSE VOUCHER WHICH SHOWED THAT THE ISSUANCE OF THE TRANSPORTATION REQUESTS WAS NOT PROPER HAD ACTUAL NOTICE OF THE EXCESS COSTS OF THE TRANSPORTATION. 1954: REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF MARCH 30. THE EXCEPTION WAS STATED AGAINST VOUCHER NO. 181722. THE BASIS FOR THE EXCEPTION IS THAT SUCH TRAVEL IS CONSIDERED AS PERSONAL TO THE EMPLOYEE. THE COST THEREOF IS NOT CHARGEABLE TO PUBLIC FUNDS. THE FACTUAL CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE TRAVEL ARE AS FOLLOWS: DR. QUATROCHE WAS APPOINTED AS A VETERINARY LIVESTOCK INSPECTOR GS-7. HE WAS INSTRUCTED TO COME TO JACKSONVILLE ON SEPTEMBER 1 FOR ONE WEEK'S ON-THE-JOB TRAINING AT THE BRUCELLOSIS LABORATORY.

B-119524, JULY 29, 1954, 34 COMP. GEN. 52

TRAVELING EXPENSES - TRANSFERS - RESIGNATION; CERTIFYING OFFICERS - RELIEF - ERROR DETECTION REQUIREMENT AN EMPLOYEE WHO TRAVELED TO A TEMPORARY DUTY STATION UNDER ORDERS FOR ON- THE-JOB TRAINING AND WHO RESIGNED THE DAY FOLLOWING ARRIVAL DID NOT PERFORM TRAVEL ESSENTIAL TO THE ASSIGNED OFFICIAL DUTIES AS REQUIRED BY THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS SO AS TO BE ENTITLED TO REIMBURSEMENT FOR SUCH TRAVEL. A CERTIFYING OFFICER WHO CERTIFIED FOR PAYMENT A TRAVEL EXPENSE VOUCHER WHICH SHOWED THAT THE ISSUANCE OF THE TRANSPORTATION REQUESTS WAS NOT PROPER HAD ACTUAL NOTICE OF THE EXCESS COSTS OF THE TRANSPORTATION, AND THEREFORE SUCH OFFICER MAY NOT BE GRANTED RELIEF UNDER THE CERTIFYING OFFICERS RELIEF PROVISIONS OF THE ACT OF DECEMBER 29, 1941.

ACTING COMPTROLLER GENERAL WEITZEL TO A. J. DELFIELD, DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, JULY 29, 1954:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF MARCH 30, 1954, RELATIVE TO AUDIT EXCEPTION OF THIS OFFICE DATED DECEMBER 15, 1953, STATED AGAINST YOU AS AUTHORIZED CERTIFYING OFFICER, BUREAU OF ANIMAL INDUSTRY, DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE, INCIDENT TO AN IMPROPER PAYMENT OF TRAVELING EXPENSES ON A VOUCHER CERTIFIED BY YOU.

THE EXCEPTION WAS STATED AGAINST VOUCHER NO. 181722, OCTOBER, 1952, ACCOUNT OF PAUL D. BANNING, IN THE AMOUNT OF $44.85, REPRESENTING THE COST OF ROUND TRIP TRAVEL BY AIR, $29.10, AND 2 1/4 DAYS' PER DIEM, $15.75, INCURRED BY JOHN E. QUATROCHE, VETERINARIAN, IN TRAVELING FROM MARIANNA TO JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA, AND RETURN, FOR THE PURPOSE OF ONE WEEK'S ON-THE- JOB TRAINING AT THE BRUCELLOSIS LABORATORY. THE BASIS FOR THE EXCEPTION IS THAT SUCH TRAVEL IS CONSIDERED AS PERSONAL TO THE EMPLOYEE; THAT, THEREFORE, THE COST THEREOF IS NOT CHARGEABLE TO PUBLIC FUNDS.

AS SET FORTH IN OFFICE MEMORANDUM DATED SEPTEMBER 29, 1952, FROM T. W. APPLEWHITE, VETERINARIAN IN CHARGE, JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA, TO THE CHIEF, BUREAU OF ANIMAL INDUSTRY, WASHINGTON, D.C., BEARING SUBJECT DESIGNATION: " EXIGENCY STATEMENT," ATTACHED TO THE VOUCHER CERTIFIED BY YOU, THE FACTUAL CIRCUMSTANCES OF THE TRAVEL ARE AS FOLLOWS:

DR. JOHN E. QUATROCHE WAS APPOINTED AS A VETERINARY LIVESTOCK INSPECTOR GS-7, EFFECTIVE AUGUST 1, 1952. HE WAS INSTRUCTED TO COME TO JACKSONVILLE ON SEPTEMBER 1 FOR ONE WEEK'S ON-THE-JOB TRAINING AT THE BRUCELLOSIS LABORATORY. IT WAS PLANNED TO ASSIGN A GOVERNMENT CAR TO DR. QUATROCHE WHILE HE WAS IN JACKSONVILLE (SIC) AND HE WAS TO DRIVE IT BACK TO MARIANNA, HIS OFFICIAL STATION.

ON SEPTEMBER 1, DR. QUATROCHE REPORTED TO THE BRUCELLOSIS LABORATORY IN JACKSONVILLE AND ON SEPTEMBER 2 WE RECEIVED A LETTER FROM HIM, STATING THAT HE WISHED TO RESIGN TO ENTER PRIVATE PRACTICE. THIS WAS THE FIRST INFORMATION RECEIVED BY THIS OFFICER AND HIS IMMEDIATE SUPERVISOR HAD NO KNOWLEDGE OF HIS INTENTIONS BEFORE HE CAME TO JACKSONVILLE. UPON RECEIPT OF THIS LETTER, WE SAW NO NEED FOR HIM TO REMAIN HERE FOR FURTHER TRAINING OR OF ASSIGNING A GOVERNMENT CAR TO HIM, SO ANOTHER GOVERNMENTAL TRANSPORTATION REQUEST WAS ISSUED FOR HIS RETURN TRANSPORTATION.

IN YOUR LETTER YOU CONTEND THAT " IF THE TRAVEL WAS PROPERLY AUTHORIZED AND PERFORMED, IT APPEARS THAT PAYMENT OF THE COSTS ALSO WOULD BE PROPER," AND IT IS REQUESTED THAT YOU BE RELIEVED OF THE CHARGES.

PARAGRAPH 2 OF THE STANDARDIZED GOVERNMENT TRAVEL REGULATIONS, AS AMENDED, UNDER WHICH TRAVEL EXPENSES SUCH AS INVOLVED HERE ARE AUTHORIZED TO BE PAID, PROVIDES:

2. REIMBURSABLE EXPENSES.--- TRAVELING EXPENSES WHICH WILL BE REIMBURSED ARE CONFINED TO THOSE EXPENSES ESSENTIAL TO THE TRANSACTING OF THE OFFICIAL BUSINESS.

IN DECISION OF DECEMBER 8, 1952, 32 COMP. GEN. 280, IT WAS HELD (QUOTING FROM THE SYLLABUS):

WHILE SECTION 1 OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE EXPENSES ACT OF 1946, AND SECTION 4 OF EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 9805, AS AMENDED, PROMULGATING REGULATIONS UNDER THE ACT, PROVIDE FOR THE TRANSFER OF EMPLOYEES AT GOVERNMENT EXPENSE WHEN "IN THE INTEREST OF THE GOVERNMENT," AN EMPLOYEE WHO TRAVELED TO THE CITY TO WHICH HE WAS TRANSFERRED AND REQUESTED TO BE PLACED ON SICK LEAVE BUT WHO RESIGNED PRIOR TO ACTUAL ENTRANCE UPON DUTY, MAY NOT BE REGARDED AS HAVING PERFORMED TRAVEL "IN THE INTEREST OF THE GOVERNMENT" SO AS TO BE ALLOWED REIMBURSEMENT UNDER THE ACT FOR THE TRAVELING EXPENSES.

THE PRINCIPLE STATED IN THAT DECISION IS EQUALLY FOR APPLICATION TO THE PRESENT CASE SINCE, OBVIOUSLY, UNDER THE FACTUAL CIRCUMSTANCES SET FORTH IN THE ABOVE-QUOTED OFFICE MEMORANDUM DATED SEPTEMBER 29, 1952, THE TRAVELING EXPENSES INVOLVED COULD NOT BE SAID TO HAVE BEEN "ESSENTIAL" TO THE DUTIES IN CONNECTION WITH WHICH THE EMPLOYEE WAS APPOINTED.

ALSO, IT HAS BEEN HELD THAT AN ACCOUNTABLE OFFICER IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE CORRECT PAYMENT OF ALL CLAIMS PRESENTED TO HIM; THAT, IN THAT CONNECTION, WHEN A TRAVEL EXPENSE VOUCHER SHOWS THAT THE ISSUANCE OF THE TRANSPORTATION REQUESTS WAS NOT PROPER, HE IS GIVEN ACTUAL NOTICE OF THE EXCESS COSTS OF THE TRANSPORTATION. B-69870, OCTOBER 27, 1947. ACCORDINGLY, SINCE YOU ELECTED TO CERTIFY THE EXPENSE VOUCHER AS PRESENTED INSTEAD OF REQUESTING A DECISION THEREON, IN WHICH EVENT THE JUSTIFICATION FOR THE TRAVEL WOULD HAVE BEEN DETERMINED AND APPROPRIATE ACTION TAKEN BY THIS OFFICE, THE SUSPENSION OF CREDIT FOR THE TRANSPORTATION COSTS WAS PROPERLY MADE. COMPARE 16 COMP. GEN. 395, PARTICULARLY THE LAST PARAGRAPH THEREOF AT PAGE 397. THE PRINCIPLE THERE DISCUSSED APPLIES WITH LIKE FORCE TO A CERTIFYING OFFICER'S LIABILITY GENERALLY. ALSO, SEE 28 ID. 425.

IT FOLLOWS THAT, ON THE PRESENT RECORD, THERE IS NO PROPER BASIS UPON WHICH THE EXCEPTION STATED AGAINST VOUCHER NO. 181722 MAY BE REMOVED.

SECTION 2 OF THE ACT OF DECEMBER 29, 1941, 55 STAT. 875 (31 U.S.C. 82C), REFERRED TO IN YOUR LETTER, PROVIDES, IN PERTINENT PART, THAT---

THE OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE CERTIFYING A VOUCHER SHALL (1) BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THE EXISTENCE AND CORRECTNESS OF THE FACTS RECITED IN THE CERTIFICATE OR OTHERWISE STATED ON THE VOUCHER OR ITS SUPPORTING PAPERS AND FOR THE LEGALITY OF THE PROPOSED PAYMENT UNDER THE APPROPRIATION OR FUND INVOLVED * * * AND (3) BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR AND REQUIRED TO MAKE GOOD TO THE UNITED STATES THE AMOUNT OF ANY ILLEGAL, IMPROPER, OR INCORRECT PAYMENT RESULTING FROM ANY FALSE, INACCURATE, OR MISLEADING CERTIFICATE MADE BY HIM, AS WELL AS FOR ANY PAYMENT PROHIBITED BY LAW OR WHICH DID NOT REPRESENT A LEGAL OBLIGATION UNDER THE APPROPRIATION OR FUND INVOLVED: PROVIDED, THAT THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL MAY, IN HIS DISCRETION, RELIEVE SUCH CERTIFYING OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE OF LIABILITY FOR ANY PAYMENT OTHERWISE PROPER WHENEVER HE FINDS (1) THAT THE CERTIFICATION WAS BASED ON OFFICIAL RECORDS AND THAT SUCH CERTIFYING OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE DID NOT KNOW, AND BY REASONABLE DILIGENCE AND INJURY COULD NOT HAVE ASCERTAINED, THE ACTUAL FACTS, OR (2) THAT THE OBLIGATION WAS INCURRED IN GOOD FAITH, THAT THE PAYMENT WAS NOT CONTRARY TO ANY STATUTORY PROVISION SPECIFICALLY PROHIBITING PAYMENTS OF THE CHARACTER INVOLVED, AND THAT THE UNITED STATES HAS RECEIVED VALUE FOR SUCH PAYMENT * * *. (ITALICS SUPPLIED.)

UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THE ABOVE-QUOTED ACT, THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL MAY RELIEVE THE CERTIFYING OFFICER FOR LIABILITY OF ANY PAYMENTS OTHERWISE PROPER UPON A FINDING OF COMPLIANCE WITH THE STATED CONDITIONS. SEE 23 COMP. GEN. 181. HOWEVER, IN THE INSTANT CASE, NO EVIDENCE HAS BEEN SUBMITTED WHICH WOULD WARRANT MY MAKING EITHER OF THE FINDINGS SPECIFIED IN THE ACT. ON THE CONTRARY, IT APPEARS THAT ALL THE MATERIAL FACTS WERE KNOWN TO YOU WHEN THE VOUCHER WAS CERTIFIED AND THAT THE UNITED STATES RECEIVED NO VALUE FOR THE PAYMENTS IN QUESTION. ACCORDINGLY, THE MATTER PROPERLY IS NOT ONE FOR GRANTING RELIEF TO YOU UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF THE ACT OF DECEMBER 29, 1941, SUPRA.

WHILE IT DOES NOT APPEAR FROM THE RECORD THAT THE FAILURE TO COLLECT THE AMOUNT IN QUESTION IS DUE TO THE REFUSAL OF THE EMPLOYEE TO REFUND IT, ASSUMING SUCH TO BE THE FACT, IT HAS BEEN HELD THAT THE UNITED STATES IS ENTITLED TO LOOK TO THE CERTIFYING OFFICER AND TO HOLD HIM RESPONSIBLE UNDER HIS BOND FOR ANY LOSSES RESULTING FROM HIS ERRONEOUS CERTIFICATION; THAT THE COLLECTION OF ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS FROM THE INDIVIDUAL EMPLOYEE IS NOT A MATTER IN WHICH THIS OFFICE PRIMARILY IS CONCERNED BUT IS FOR CONSIDERATION OF THE CERTIFYING OFFICER. SEE 26 COMP. GEN. 578.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, THE CHARGE STATED AGAINST YOU IN THE AMOUNT OF $44.85 MUST BE CONTINUED UNTIL COLLECTION OF SAID SUM SHALL HAVE BEEN EFFECTED.