B-132151, SEP. 10, 1957

B-132151: Sep 10, 1957

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IT IS STATED THAT THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT. THE RESULT OF THE PROGRAM IS REPORTED TO BE THAT THE EMPLOYEE ORIGINALLY HANDLING THE TRANSACTION HAS A GREATER SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY AND HIS WORK HAS IMPROVED. IT IS REPORTED ALSO THAT THE QUANTITY OF WORK. IN IS POINTED OUT THAT THE THEORY OF CALCULATED RISK CARRIES WITH IT THE UNDERSTANDING THAT THE EMPLOYER ASSUMES THE RISK AS HE RECEIVES THE BENEFIT OF ABBREVIATED PROCEDURES IN THE FORM OF GREATER PRODUCTIVITY. THAT THE DEPARTMENT IS HANDICAPPED IN THE REFERRED-TO PROGRAM BECAUSE IT HAS NO AUTHORITY TO ASSUME RESPONSIBILITY FOR LOSSES. NEVER HANDLE CASH IN FILLING ORDERS BUT ARE CHARGED WITH ANY SHORTAGE OF STOCK THAT MAY RESULT FROM AN ERROR IN COUNTING OR PACKING.

B-132151, SEP. 10, 1957

TO POSTMASTER GENERAL:

ON JUNE 6, 1957, THE DEPUTY POSTMASTER GENERAL SUBMITTED FOR OUR CONSIDERATION A PLAN FOR THE REMISSION OF PART OF THE SHORTAGE ARISING IN THE HANDLING OF STAMPS BY EMPLOYEES OF THE DIVISION OF PHILATELY, POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT.

IT IS STATED THAT THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT, IN THE INTEREST OF WORK SIMPLIFICATION AND ECONOMY, HAS BEEN ELIMINATING USELESS VERIFICATION PROCEDURES SUCH AS REPETITIVE COUNTING AND CASUAL WITNESSING. THE RESULT OF THE PROGRAM IS REPORTED TO BE THAT THE EMPLOYEE ORIGINALLY HANDLING THE TRANSACTION HAS A GREATER SENSE OF RESPONSIBILITY AND HIS WORK HAS IMPROVED. HOWEVER, IT IS REPORTED ALSO THAT THE QUANTITY OF WORK, IN SOME AREAS, HAS DROPPED BECAUSE THE EMPLOYEE USES EXTRA CARE TO AVOID AN ERROR FOR WHICH HE MAY BE HELD RESPONSIBLE.

IN IS POINTED OUT THAT THE THEORY OF CALCULATED RISK CARRIES WITH IT THE UNDERSTANDING THAT THE EMPLOYER ASSUMES THE RISK AS HE RECEIVES THE BENEFIT OF ABBREVIATED PROCEDURES IN THE FORM OF GREATER PRODUCTIVITY; BUT THAT THE DEPARTMENT IS HANDICAPPED IN THE REFERRED-TO PROGRAM BECAUSE IT HAS NO AUTHORITY TO ASSUME RESPONSIBILITY FOR LOSSES.

SPECIFICALLY, THE DEPUTY POSTMASTER GENERAL REFERS TO THE SITUATION REGARDING THE CLERKS OF THE DIVISION OF PHILATELY. THESE EMPLOYEES, HE SAYS, NEVER HANDLE CASH IN FILLING ORDERS BUT ARE CHARGED WITH ANY SHORTAGE OF STOCK THAT MAY RESULT FROM AN ERROR IN COUNTING OR PACKING. THE LETTER LISTS SHORTAGES (ACCUMULATED ERRORS) INCURRED BY CERTAIN EMPLOYEES WHICH WERE DISCLOSED ON A RECENT ANNUAL AUDIT.

IN CONNECTION THEREWITH, IT IS EXPLAINED THAT THE DEPARTMENT HAS BEEN CONSIDERING THE NEED FOR ADOPTING A MORE LIBERAL ATTITUDE IN THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR LOSSES. CERTAIN RULES OR GUIDELINES ARE SET FORTH FOR SHARING COUNTER LOSSES IN THE DIVISION OF PHILATELY, THE APPLICATION OF WHICH, IT IS SAID, WILL ENABLE CLOSE ADMINISTRATIVE CONTROL AND SERVE TO ELIMINATE WITNESSING OF FILLED ORDERS UP TO $100. THE SUGGESTED GUIDE LINES ARE AS FOLLOWS:

"A. HOLD POSTAL EMPLOYEES RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY SHORTAGE UP TO $10, AND FOR THE FIRST $10 OF ANY LARGER SHORTAGE.

"B. FOR THE FIRST SHORTAGE OF MORE THAN $10 IN A CALENDAR YEAR RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE EXCESS AMOUNT WOULD BE SHARED:--- THE DEPARTMENT 50 PERCENT; THE CLERK 50 PERCENT.

"C. FOR THE SECOND SHORTAGE OF MORE THAN $10 IN A CALENDAR YEAR, RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE EXCESS AMOUNT WOULD BE SHARED:--- THE DEPARTMENT 25 PERCENT; THE CLERK 75 PERCENT.

"D. FOR THE THIRD SHORTAGE OF MORE THAN $10 IN A CALENDAR YEAR, RESPONSIBILITY WOULD BE HARED:--- THE DEPARTMENT 10 PERCENT; THE CLERK 90 PERCENT.

"E. IF MORE THAN THREE SHORTAGES IN EXCESS OF $10 OCCUR IN A CALENDAR YEAR, THE CLERK WILL BE HELD WHOLLY RESPONSIBLE.

"F. ANY SHORTAGE WHICH REQUIRES THE DEPARTMENT TO ASSUME RESPONSIBILITY OF $50 OR MORE SHALL BE REPORTED TO THE INSPECTION SERVICE FOR INVESTIGATION.

"G. IF ANY EMPLOYEE HAS FIVE OR MORE SHORTAGES IN A TWO-YEAR PERIOD, THE MATTER WILL BE REPORTED TO THE INSPECTION SERVICE.

"H. THE GRANTING OF RELIEF FOR COUNTER SHORTAGES AS SET FORTH ABOVE IS A PRIVILEGE RATHER THAN A RIGHT AND MAY BE GRANTED OR DENIED BY THE OFFICER CHARGED WITH THE SUPERVISION OF THIS PROGRAM IN ACCORDANCE WITH HIS ADMINISTRATIVE DECISION BASED UPON THE REPORTED CIRCUMSTANCES AND ANY INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS.

"I. IN THE INVESTIGATION OF ANY SHORTAGE UNDER PARAGRAPH F OR G, THE INSPECTION SERVICE MAY REQUIRE THE EMPLOYEE TO BE EXAMINED BY MEANS OF A LIE-DETECTOR. IF THE EMPLOYEE REFUSES SUCH EXAMINATION, THE CLAIM WILL BE DENIED.

"J. ALL OVERAGES ACCRUING IN AN EMPLOYEE'S CREDIT OR ACCOUNT WILL BE REPORTED AND TRANSFERRED TO THE OFFICIAL ACCOUNTS OF THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT. SUCH AMOUNTS WILL BE REFUNDED IF SUBSEQUENT AUDIT ACTION DISCLOSES AN ACCOUNTING ERROR WHICH IS RELATED TO THE PREVIOUS OVERAGE.'

IN OUR DECISION TO THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY DATED AUGUST 31, 1956, B -127942, THERE WAS CONSIDERED A PROPOSAL TO REDUCED OPERATING COSTS OF THE INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE BY AUTHORIZING THE REGIONAL COMMISSIONERS OF INTERNAL REVENUE TO GRANT RELIEF TO ACCOUNTABLE EMPLOYEES AS TO LOSSES NOT EXCEEDING $25 IN ANY ONE CASE. WE HELD THAT NEITHER THE PROVISIONS OF 31 U.S.C. 82A-1 NOR 31 U.S.C. 52/E) AUTHORIZE THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL TO DELEGATE, TO OTHER THAN GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE PERSONNEL, HIS AUTHORITY IN THE MATTER OF GRANTING RELIEF.

THUS, IF IT BE THE INTENT OF THE LETTER OF JUNE 6 TO SECURE AUTHORITY FOR THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT TO GRANT RELIEF TO EMPLOYEES OF THE DIVISION OF PHILATELY FOR SHORTAGES, IN PART OR OTHERWISE, IN FILLING MAIL ORDERS WITHOUT REGARD TO THE STATUTORY RESPONSIBILITY OF THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE UNDER 5 U.S.C. 383 AND 384 AND 31 U.S.C. 82A-1 IN THIS MATTER, WE HAVE TO ADVISE THAT WE ARE WITHOUT AUTHORITY OF LAW TO ACQUIESCE IN SUCH A PROPOSITION.

ON THE OTHER HAND, IF IT IS PROPOSED TO DISCONTINUE CERTAIN PROCEDURES IN THE DIVISION OF PHILATELY IN ORDER TO REDUCE OPERATING COSTS WITHOUT AFFECTING PRODUCTION, A MATTER WE ARE ALWAYS INTERESTED IN, THROUGH THE ADOPTION OF THE FORMULA QUOTED ABOVE WHICH WILL SERVE AS A GUIDELINE FOR ADJUSTING AND COLLECTING ALL OR A PART OF ACCUMULATED SHORTAGES INCURRED BY THE EMPLOYEES AND AS TO WHICH THE FACTS AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF INDIVIDUAL SHORTAGES ARE IMPRACTICABLE OF ASCERTAINMENT, WITH SUBMISSION TO OUR OFFICE FOR RELIEF OF THE EMPLOYEE'S BALANCES OF SUCH SHORTAGES AND AS A BASIS FOR MAKING RECOMMENDATIONS TO OUR OFFICE FOR RELIEF OF THE EMPLOYEES INVOLVED UNDER THE APPLICABLE STATUTES, THEN WE SEE NO NEED TO OBJECT TO THE PROPOSAL. HOWEVER, IT MUST BE UNDERSTOOD THAT RELIEF MAY BE GRANTED IN THESE CASES ONLY WHEN THE POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT MAKES THE NECESSARY RECOMMENDATIONS, FINDINGS AND CERTIFICATIONS UNDER THE PERTINENT STATUTES AND OUR OFFICE HAS CONSIDERED AND APPROVED THE ADMINISTRATIVE RECOMMENDATION IN A PARTICULAR CASE.

WE NOTE THAT GUIDELINE "I" CONTEMPLATES THE USE OF A LIE-DETECTOR TEST IN THE CASE OF CERTAIN SHORTAGES. WE REQUEST THAT YOU FURTHER CONSIDER WHETHER THE COMPULSORY SUBMISSION TO LIE-DETECTOR TESTS SHOULD BE A PREREQUISITE FOR RECOMMENDING RELIEF IN SUCH CASES.