B-125188, JAN. 4, 1956

B-125188: Jan 4, 1956

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TO THE SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE: REFERENCE IS MADE TO LETTER DATED SEPTEMBER 21. THE PAYMENTS WERE MADE TO THOSE MEMBERS WHOSE HUSBANDS WERE ALSO MEMBERS OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES STATIONED AT THE SAME OR ADJACENT INSTALLATIONS AND WERE MADE IN CASES WHERE FAMILY-TYPE QUARTERS WERE NOT AVAILABLE AND WHERE THE BASE COMMANDER HAD DETERMINED THAT IT WAS NOT IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE SERVICE TO ASSIGN THE FEMALE MEMBERS TO AVAILABLE SINGLE- TYPE QUARTERS. WE HELD THAT PAYMENTS OF THE TYPE HERE INVOLVED WERE ERRONEOUS UNLESS SINGLE-TYPE QUARTERS WERE NOT AVAILABLE FOR ASSIGNMENT TO THE FEMALE MEMBERS. THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY SAYS THAT SINCE COLLECTION OF THE AMOUNTS INVOLVED WOULD HAVE A SERIOUS IMPACT ON THE MORALE OF THE PERSONNEL CONCERNED.

B-125188, JAN. 4, 1956

TO THE SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO LETTER DATED SEPTEMBER 21, 1955, FROM THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE AIR FORCE (MANPOWER AND PERSONNEL), CONCERNING ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS OF BASIC ALLOWANCE FOR QUARTERS MADE TO CERTAIN FEMALE MEMBERS OF THE AIR FORCE DURING THE PERIOD FROM APRIL 12, 1950, TO APRIL 16, 1954. THE PAYMENTS WERE MADE TO THOSE MEMBERS WHOSE HUSBANDS WERE ALSO MEMBERS OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES STATIONED AT THE SAME OR ADJACENT INSTALLATIONS AND WERE MADE IN CASES WHERE FAMILY-TYPE QUARTERS WERE NOT AVAILABLE AND WHERE THE BASE COMMANDER HAD DETERMINED THAT IT WAS NOT IN THE BEST INTERESTS OF THE SERVICE TO ASSIGN THE FEMALE MEMBERS TO AVAILABLE SINGLE- TYPE QUARTERS. IN DECISIONS B-113008, DATED FEBRUARY 20, 1953, 32 COMP. GEN. 368, AND B 117268, DATED JANUARY 7, 1954, WE HELD THAT PAYMENTS OF THE TYPE HERE INVOLVED WERE ERRONEOUS UNLESS SINGLE-TYPE QUARTERS WERE NOT AVAILABLE FOR ASSIGNMENT TO THE FEMALE MEMBERS.

THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY SAYS THAT SINCE COLLECTION OF THE AMOUNTS INVOLVED WOULD HAVE A SERIOUS IMPACT ON THE MORALE OF THE PERSONNEL CONCERNED, INASMUCH AS THEY ACCEPTED THE PAYMENTS IN GOOD FAITH, HE DIRECTED, ON MAY 11, 1955, THAT REMEDIAL LEGISLATION BE PREPARED FOR INTRODUCTION TO VALIDATE THE PAYMENTS AND AT THE SAME TIME AUTHORIZED THE SUSPENSION OF THE COLLECTION OF THE AMOUNTS INVOLVED UNTIL THE END OF THE THEN CURRENT SESSION OF CONGRESS, EXCEPT IN CASES IN WHICH THE PAYMENTS HAD BEEN DISALLOWED OR IN WHICH SUSPENSION WOULD IMPEDE COLLECTION DUE TO THE IMMINENT SEPARATION OF THE PAYEE. HE SAYS ALSO THAT THE PROPOSED LEGISLATION WAS APPROVED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE AND TRANSMITTED TO THE BUREAU OF THE BUDGET BUT THAT CONGRESS ADJOURNED BEFORE ACTION TO SECURE ITS INTRODUCTION COULD BE COMPLETED. HE SAYS FURTHER THAT THE PROPOSED LEGISLATION HAS BEEN INCORPORATED IN THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE LEGISLATIVE PROGRAM FOR 1956, AND INDICATES THAT, ASSUMING ENACTMENT OF THE PROPOSED LEGISLATION, COLLECTION AT THIS TIME OF THE AMOUNTS INVOLVED WOULD RESULT IN AN UNNECESSARY BURDEN ON THE AIR FORCE AND THE FEMALE MEMBERS CONCERNED. HE THEN REQUESTS ADVICE WHETHER WE WOULD HAVE ANY OBJECTION TO THE ISSUANCE OF A MEMORANDUM AUTHORIZING SUSPENSION OF SUCH COLLECTIONS, EXCEPT IN CASES WHERE PAYMENT HAS BEEN DISALLOWED OR WHERE THE COLLECTION WOULD BE IMPEDED BY THE IMMINENT SEPARATION OF THE MEMBER, UNTIL CONGRESS HAS ACTED ON THE PROPOSED LEGISLATION OR UNTIL THE NEXT SESSION OF CONGRESS HAS ENDED, WHICHEVER IS EARLIER.

AS YOU PROBABLY KNOW, IN LETTER DATED SEPTEMBER 21, 1955, B-125188, WE ADVISED THE DIRECTOR, BUREAU OF THE BUDGET, THAT WE WERE OPPOSED TO THE ENACTMENT OF THE PROPOSED BILL, SUBMITTED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE AS A 1955 LEGISLATIVE PROGRAM ITEM, TO VALIDATE THESE ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS. HAVE NO SERIOUS OBJECTION, HOWEVER, TO THE ISSUANCE OF THE PROPOSED MEMORANDUM AUTHORIZING SUSPENSION OF COLLECTION ACTION IN THOSE CASES OF THE NATURE HERE INVOLVED WHERE AUDIT EXCEPTIONS HAVE NOT BEEN TAKEN AND WHERE COLLECTION WILL NOT BE IMPEDED BY THE IMMINENT SEPARATION OF THE PAYEE, AND WE WILL NOT PRESS COLLECTION ACTION IN CASES OF SUCH TYPE WHERE AUDIT EXCEPTIONS HAVE BEEN ISSUED AGAINST THE DISBURSING OFFICERS CONCERNED, PRIOR TO THE END OF THE NEXT SESSION OF CONGRESS, PROVIDED RELIEF LEGISLATION IS PENDING, EXCEPT TO THE EXTENT NECESSARY TO AVOID SUBSTANTIAL PREJUDICE TO THE RIGHTS OF THE GOVERNMENT UNDER THE LAW. SEE THE ACT OF MAY 19, 1947, 61 STAT. 101, 31 U.S.C. 82I, WHICH PROVIDES THAT THE ACCOUNTS OF DISBURSING OFFICERS SHALL BE SETTLED WITHIN THREE YEARS AFTER THE DATE OF THEIR RECEIPT IN THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE. AS YOU KNOW, HOWEVER, THE MATTER OF RECOVERING ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS FROM THE PAYEES IS LARGELY ONE FOR THE DISBURSING OFFICERS TO DECIDE, SINCE THEY, WITH THEIR SURETIES, ARE THE ONES PRIMARILY LIABLE FOR THE OVERPAYMENTS. SEE 19 COMP. GEN. 306; 28 COMP. GEN. 17; 34 COMP. GEN. 715, 719.