B-134506, JAN. 2, 1958

B-134506: Jan 2, 1958

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THE HOUSING UNITS WERE OCCUPIED LARGELY BY MILITARY PERSONNEL. THE UNITS WERE CONSIDERED TO BE PUBLIC QUARTERS FOR MILITARY PERSONNEL. THAT IS. SINCE COLLECTION FROM CIVILIAN TENANTS WAS AFFECTED BY BIWEEKLY PAYROLL DEDUCTION. THE MONTHLY RATES WERE ADJUSTED TO BIWEEKLY DEDUCTIONS OF $18. ORD VILLAGE WAS DECLARED RENTAL QUARTERS FOR MILITARY PERSONNEL UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY CIRCULAR NO. 35- 17. NEW RATES UNDER AR 210-12 WERE NOT PROMULGATED AND SINCE THE MONTHLY RATES FOR CIVILIAN TENANTS HAD BEEN PREPARED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE REGULATION. THE SAME RENTALS WERE APPLICABLE TO THE MILITARY. THE BILLETING OFFICE USED THE BIWEEKLY PAYROLL DEDUCTION SCHEDULE APPLICABLE TO THE CIVILIANS AND OVERLOOKED THE FACT THAT THE MILITARY PAY PERIOD IS MONTHLY.

B-134506, JAN. 2, 1958

TO THE SECRETARY OF THE ARMY:

IN OUR AUDIT OF THE ARMY INSTALLATION AT FORT ORD, CALIFORNIA, A MATTER INVOLVING FAILURE TO CHARGE THE PROPER RENTALS TO MILITARY TENANTS OF ORD VILLAGE, A LANHAM ACT HOUSING DEVELOPMENT TRANSFERRED TO THE DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY, HAS COME TO OUR ATTENTION.

THE HOUSING UNITS WERE OCCUPIED LARGELY BY MILITARY PERSONNEL, WITH A FEW UNITS BEING MADE AVAILABLE TO CIVILIAN PERSONNEL. PRIOR TO JULY 1, 1957, THE UNITS WERE CONSIDERED TO BE PUBLIC QUARTERS FOR MILITARY PERSONNEL, THAT IS, THEY PAID NO RENT AND DREW NO QUARTERS ALLOWANCES. FOR CIVILIANS, MONTHLY RENTAL RATES HAD BEEN PRESCRIBED IN DECEMBER 1955, PURSUANT TO AR 210-12, PROVIDING MONTHLY RENTALS OF $39, $53.99, AND $62.51, FOR ONE, TWO, AND THREE BEDROOM UNITS, RESPECTIVELY. SINCE COLLECTION FROM CIVILIAN TENANTS WAS AFFECTED BY BIWEEKLY PAYROLL DEDUCTION, THE MONTHLY RATES WERE ADJUSTED TO BIWEEKLY DEDUCTIONS OF $18, $24.92, AND $28.85 PER PAY PERIOD.

ON JULY 1, 1957, ORD VILLAGE WAS DECLARED RENTAL QUARTERS FOR MILITARY PERSONNEL UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY CIRCULAR NO. 35- 17, DATED JUNE 7, 1957. PURSUANT THERETO, THE MILITARY PERSONNEL DREW QUARTERS ALLOWANCES AND PAID RENT FOR THE QUARTERS OCCUPIED. THE CIRCULAR PROVIDED THAT MILITARY OCCUPANTS WOULD BE CHARGED RENT AS DETERMINED UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF AR 210-12. NEW RATES UNDER AR 210-12 WERE NOT PROMULGATED AND SINCE THE MONTHLY RATES FOR CIVILIAN TENANTS HAD BEEN PREPARED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE REGULATION, THE SAME RENTALS WERE APPLICABLE TO THE MILITARY. HOWEVER, IN SETTING THE MONTHLY RENTALS FOR MILITARY PERSONNEL, THE BILLETING OFFICE USED THE BIWEEKLY PAYROLL DEDUCTION SCHEDULE APPLICABLE TO THE CIVILIANS AND OVERLOOKED THE FACT THAT THE MILITARY PAY PERIOD IS MONTHLY. THUS EACH MILITARY OCCUPANT WAS CHARGED ONLY 14/30THS OF THE PROPER MONTHLY RATE.

THE LOCAL OFFICIALS UPON BEING APPRISED OF THE SITUATION BY OUR AUDITORS ON SEPTEMBER 12, 1957, TOOK PROMPT ACTION TO APPLY THE CORRECT RATE FOR THE MONTH OF SEPTEMBER TO THOSE STILL RESIDING IN ORD VILLAGE. HOWEVER, THESE OFFICIALS DECLINED TO COLLECT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE BIWEEKLY AND MONTHLY RATES FOR THE MONTHS OF JULY AND AUGUST 1957, AMOUNTING TO APPROXIMATELY $41,000. THE COMMANDING OFFICER URGED AS REASONS FOR NOT COLLECTING THE PROPER RENTALS THAT THE ERROR WAS ACCIDENTAL, THAT THE TENANTS HAD NO REASON TO BELIEVE THE RENTALS COLLECTED WERE NOT CORRECT, THAT COLLECTION WOULD WORK A HARDSHIP UPON THEM AND ADVERSELY AFFECT MORALS AND THAT IT WAS THE OPINION OF THE STAFF JUDGE ADVOCATE THAT THERE EXISTS A REASONABLE DOUBT AS TO THE LOCAL LIABILITY OF THE TENANTS. BELIEVE THESE CONTENTIONS TO BE WITHOUT MERIT.

IT IS WELL ESTABLISHED THAT THE MISTAKES OF GOVERNMENT OFFICERS OR AGENTS ARE NOT BINDING ON THE UNITED STATES WHERE SUCH MISTAKES ARE IN CONTRAVENTION OF LAWFUL REGULATIONS. WE UNDERSTAND THAT SUCH IS THE CASE HERE. THEREFORE, SINCE NEITHER THE DEPARTMENT NOR OUR OFFICE MAY WAIVE REGULATIONS PROMULGATED PURSUANT TO LAW THERE IS NO BASIS FOR WAIVING COLLECTION OF THE UNDERPAYMENT OF RENT IN THESE CASES.

PLEASE INFORM US OF THE MEASURES TAKEN TO EFFECT COLLECTION OF THE UNDERPAYMENTS OF RENTALS.