B-125414, SEP. 30, 1955

B-125414: Sep 30, 1955

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DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE: REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF SEPTEMBER 1. REQUESTING A DECISION AS TO WHETHER YOU ARE AUTHORIZED TO CERTIFY FOR PAYMENT A VOUCHER IN FAVOR OF U.S. 5330 FOR 45 CYLINDERS IN WHICH HELIUM GAS WAS DELIVERED. IN THE LETTER IT IS STATED THAT FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS THE WEATHER BUREAU HAS BEEN PROCURING HELIUM FROM NAVAL SUPPLY DEPOTS FOR USE AT WEATHER BUREAU STATIONS CONVENIENT TO SUCH DEPOTS IN ORDER TO SAVE TRANSPORTATION COSTS. THAT HELIUM FOR USE AT OTHER WEATHER BUREAU STATIONS IS PURCHASED DIRECT FROM THE BUREAU OF MINES. IT IS STATED FURTHER THAT BEGINNING JULY 1. THE DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY IS BILLING THE WEATHER BUREAU FOR ALL CYLINDERS FURNISHED. GEN. 288 IT WAS STATED: "THE RULE HAS BEEN LONG ESTABLISHED THAT WHERE ONE DEPARTMENT LOANS PROPERTY OR EQUIPMENT TO ANOTHER IT IS NOT ENTITLED TO CHARGE FOR ITS USE OR DEPRECIATION.

B-125414, SEP. 30, 1955

TO MR. R. P. HOGAN, AUTHORIZED CERTIFYING OFFICER, WEATHER BUREAU, DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF SEPTEMBER 1, 1955, A-3.32, REQUESTING A DECISION AS TO WHETHER YOU ARE AUTHORIZED TO CERTIFY FOR PAYMENT A VOUCHER IN FAVOR OF U.S. NAVAL STATION, KEY WEST, FLORIDA, IN THE TOTAL AMOUNT OF $1,800, INCLUDING $270 FOR 9,000 CUBIC FEET OF HELIUM GAS AND $1,5330 FOR 45 CYLINDERS IN WHICH HELIUM GAS WAS DELIVERED.

IN THE LETTER IT IS STATED THAT FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS THE WEATHER BUREAU HAS BEEN PROCURING HELIUM FROM NAVAL SUPPLY DEPOTS FOR USE AT WEATHER BUREAU STATIONS CONVENIENT TO SUCH DEPOTS IN ORDER TO SAVE TRANSPORTATION COSTS, SINCE THE NAVY PURCHASES HELIUM FROM THE BUREAU OF MINES IN TANK CAR LOTS AND GIVES THE WEATHER BUREAU THE BENEFIT OF THE CHEAPER TRANSPORTATION; ALSO, THAT HELIUM FOR USE AT OTHER WEATHER BUREAU STATIONS IS PURCHASED DIRECT FROM THE BUREAU OF MINES. IT IS STATED FURTHER THAT BEGINNING JULY 1, 1955, THE DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY IS BILLING THE WEATHER BUREAU FOR ALL CYLINDERS FURNISHED, AS WELL AS FOR THE HELIUM CONTAINED THEREIN, AND THAT THE BUREAU OF MINES DOES NOT CHARGE FOR CYLINDERS. YOU EXPRESS DOUBT AS TO THE LEGAL AUTHORITY OF THE WEATHER BUREAU TO MAKE PAYMENTS FOR THE CYLINDERS EVEN THOUGH SUCH PAYMENTS WOULD BE CREDITED TO THE NAVY'S REVOLVING STOCK FUND AND THE AMOUNT WOULD BE REFUNDED TO THE WEATHER BUREAU ON RETURN OF THE CYLINDERS TO THE NAVY.

IN 10 COMP. GEN. 288 IT WAS STATED:

"THE RULE HAS BEEN LONG ESTABLISHED THAT WHERE ONE DEPARTMENT LOANS PROPERTY OR EQUIPMENT TO ANOTHER IT IS NOT ENTITLED TO CHARGE FOR ITS USE OR DEPRECIATION, OR TO HAVE LOST PROPERTY REPLACED OR DAMAGED PROPERTY REPAIRED UPON ITS RETURN TO THE LOANING ESTABLISHMENT. * * *"

TO THE SAME GENERAL EFFECT ARE THE DECISIONS REPORTED IN 25 COMP. GEN. 322 AND 26 COMP. GEN. 585 REFERRED TO IN YOUR LETTER. HOWEVER, SUCH DECISIONS ARE NOT TO BE REGARDED AS DECISIVE OF THE INSTANT MATTER, WHICH INVOLVES AMOUNTS CHARGED AS DEPOSITS TO BE REFUNDED ON RETURN OF THE CYLINDERS, THE ENTIRE TRANSACTION BEING MERELY INCIDENTAL TO THE PURCHASE OF HELIUM AND THE PAYMENTS NOT BEING IN FACT PAYMENTS FOR THE PURCHASE OR THE USE OR DEPRECIATION OF THE CYLINDERS.

IN 23 COMP. GEN. 588 IT WAS HELD THAT WHERE A CONTRACT FOR FURNISHING ALCOHOL IN STEEL DRUMS PROVIDED FOR A CREDIT OF $1.25 FOR EACH DRUM RETURNED TO THE CONTRACTOR THE RETURN OF THE DRUMS WAS NOT A SALE OF THE DRUMS, AS THE GOVERNMENT MERELY HELD THE DRUMS AS BAILEE UNTIL EMPTIED AND RETURNED. SEE ALSO 23 COMP. GEN. 462, WHEREIN THERE WAS QUOTED WITH APPROVAL THE FOLLOWING EXCERPT FROM A PRIOR DECISION--

"IT HAS BEEN THE RULE OF THE ACCOUNTING OFFICERS OF THE GOVERNMENT FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS THAT WHEN SPECIFIC PROVISION IS MADE IN PURCHASE CONTRACTS OR AGREEMENTS FOR THE RETURN OF CONTAINERS TO THE CONTRACTOR AT A STIPULATED PRICE, THE AMOUNT PAID ORIGINALLY FOR SUCH CONTAINERS IS ONLY A TENTATIVE CHARGE AGAINST THE APPROPRIATION INVOLVED, AND THE RECEIPTS FROM THE RETURN OF SAID CONTAINERS ARE FOR DEPOSITING TO THE CREDIT OF THE APPROPRIATION FROM WHICH TENTATIVE PAYMENT WAS MADE.'

SINCE SECTION 601 OF THE ECONOMY ACT OF 1932, AS AMENDED, 31 U.S.C. 686, IMPLIEDLY RECOGNIZES PROPERTY OWNERSHIP RIGHTS AS EXISTING IN THE SEVERAL DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES, RATHER THAN IN THE GOVERNMENT IN GENERAL, IT APPEARS THAT INTER-AGENCY DUTIES AND LIABILITIES MAY BE GOVERNED BY THE SAME GENERAL PRINCIPLES AS THOSE APPLIED BETWEEN THE GOVERNMENT AND PRIVATE PARTIES, AND MAY BE SETTLED BY AGREEMENT BETWEEN THE AGENCIES INVOLVED. SEE 30 COMP. GEN. 295. IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, THERE IS PERCEIVED NO OBJECTION TO PAYMENT OF THE AMOUNTS BILLED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY AS DEPOSITS ON CYLINDERS FURNISHED. ACCORDINGLY, THE VOUCHER AND OTHER SIMILAR VOUCHERS REFERRED TO IN YOUR LETTER MAY BE CERTIFIED FOR PAYMENT, IF OTHERWISE CORRECT.