B-123534, JUN. 21, 1955

B-123534: Jun 21, 1955

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CIVIL AERONAUTICS ADMINISTRATION: REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF APRIL 6. THE DEDUCTIONS BY CAA WERE TO EFFECT COLLECTION OF THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE HIGHER UTILITY RATES PAID THE COMPANY DURING A REVIEW OF THEIR REQUESTED INCREASE BY THE SUPREME COURT OF NEW MEXICO AND THE PRIOR RATES TO WHICH THE CONTRACTS REVERTED BY VIRTUE OF THE COURT'S REFUSAL TO APPROVE THE INCREASE. THE ARRANGEMENT WAS THE OUTGROWTH OF THE PRACTICE OF REGULATORY BODIES TO GRANT UTILITY RATE INCREASES ON A TEMPORARY BASIS PENDING STUDY AND FINAL DETERMINATION AS TO WHETHER INCREASES WERE JUSTIFIED ON A PERMANENT BASIS. THERE IS A TIME LAG OF A YEAR OR MORE BEFORE THE ISSUES ARE FINALLY DETERMINED AND IN THE MEANTIME THE SUCCESSIVELY AVAILABLE APPROPRIATIONS OF THE AGENCIES SERVICED HAVE BORNE THE RATE INCREASES.

B-123534, JUN. 21, 1955

TO MISS LOUISE L. COX, AUTHORIZED CERTIFYING OFFICER, CIVIL AERONAUTICS ADMINISTRATION:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF APRIL 6, 1955, TRANSMITTING A VOUCHER IN FAVOR OF THE MOUNTAIN STATES TELEPHONE AND TELEGRAPH COMPANY, IN THE AMOUNT OF $311.77, AND REQUESTING A DECISION AS TO WHETHER YOU PROPERLY MAY CERTIFY THE VOUCHER FOR PAYMENT.

YOU STATE THAT THE VOUCHER REPRESENTS A RECLAIM BY THE COMPANY OF THE AMOUNT DEDUCTED BY THE CIVIL AERONAUTICS ADMINISTRATION FROM PAYMENTS OTHERWISE DUE FOR SERVICES UNDER VARIOUS CONTRACTS. THE DEDUCTIONS BY CAA WERE TO EFFECT COLLECTION OF THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE HIGHER UTILITY RATES PAID THE COMPANY DURING A REVIEW OF THEIR REQUESTED INCREASE BY THE SUPREME COURT OF NEW MEXICO AND THE PRIOR RATES TO WHICH THE CONTRACTS REVERTED BY VIRTUE OF THE COURT'S REFUSAL TO APPROVE THE INCREASE.

THE COMPANY PROTESTS COLLECTION BY THE CAA FOR THE REASON THAT AN INFORMAL ARRANGEMENT WITH US PROVIDED THAT THE UTILITY COMPANY WOULD SUBMIT ONE CHECK TO THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE COVERING THE TOTAL AMOUNT DUE THE GOVERNMENT, RATHER THAN INDIVIDUAL CHECKS TO EACH OF THE GOVERNMENT AGENCIES INVOLVED.

THE ARRANGEMENT WAS THE OUTGROWTH OF THE PRACTICE OF REGULATORY BODIES TO GRANT UTILITY RATE INCREASES ON A TEMPORARY BASIS PENDING STUDY AND FINAL DETERMINATION AS TO WHETHER INCREASES WERE JUSTIFIED ON A PERMANENT BASIS. IN MANY CASES, THERE IS A TIME LAG OF A YEAR OR MORE BEFORE THE ISSUES ARE FINALLY DETERMINED AND IN THE MEANTIME THE SUCCESSIVELY AVAILABLE APPROPRIATIONS OF THE AGENCIES SERVICED HAVE BORNE THE RATE INCREASES. WHERE IT IS FOUND THAT THE INCREASES ARE NOT JUSTIFIED THE COMPANY IS REQUIRED TO REFUND THE OVERPAYMENTS. THE APPLICATION OF REFUNDS TO THE APPROPRIATIONS CHARGED WOULD REQUIRE IDENTIFICATION OF THE VOUCHERS INVOLVED AND THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE AMOUNT TO THE APPROPRIATIONS CURRENT WHEN THE OVERPAYMENTS WERE MADE. IN MANY INSTANCES, THE CHARGED APPROPRIATIONS EITHER HAVE LAPSED OR ARE NO LONGER AVAILABLE FOR OBLIGATION, AND THIS FACT, COUPLED WITH THE INSIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS REFUNDABLE TO INDIVIDUAL AGENCIES, LED TO THE CONCLUSION THAT THE EXPENSE INVOLVED IN IDENTIFYING THE INDIVIDUAL OVERPAYMENTS AND APPLYING AMOUNTS REFUNDED TO THE APPROPRIATIONS CHARGED COULD NOT BE JUSTIFIED.

PURSUANT TO THAT ARRANGEMENT, THE MOUNTAIN STATES TELEPHONE AND TELEGRAPH COMPANY ALREADY HAS MADE PAYMENT TO US OF THE OVERCHARGES TO GOVERNMENT AGENCIES SERVICED DURING THE PERIOD JUNE 23, 1953, TO JUNE 7, 1954. SINCE THE OVERPAYMENTS HAVE BEEN REFUNDED, THE VOUCHER REPRESENTS A VALID CLAIM AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT.

ACCORDINGLY, THE VOUCHER IS HEREWITH RETURNED AND MAY BE CERTIFIED FOR PAYMENT IF PROPER IN OTHER RESPECTS. THE APPROPRIATIONS AVAILABLE FOR PAYMENT OF THE ORIGINAL BILLINGS FOR THE PERIODS INVOLVED WOULD LIKEWISE BE AVAILABLE FOR MAKING THE REFUNDS, SINCE IT IS INDICATED IN YOUR LETTER THAT THE DEDUCTIONS WERE CREDITED TO SUCH APPROPRIATIONS.