B-145158, MAY 8, 1963

B-145158: May 8, 1963

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TO THE SECRETARY OF THE ARMY: REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF APRIL 15. PROVIDED THE GOVERNMENT'S RIGHTS WERE NOT PREJUDICED. IT IS UNDERSTOOD THAT THE DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY SUSPENDED COLLECTION ACTION AS TO THE ARMY MEMBERS CONCERNED. AT A LATER DATE REQUEST WAS MADE TO US TO CONTINUE THE SUSPENSION OF ACTION FOR THE PERIOD OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE 87TH CONGRESS AND FOR A REASONABLE PERIOD AFTER THE CONVENING OF THE 88TH CONGRESS. AMONG THESE CONSIDERATIONS IS THE FACT THAT OUR VIEW THAT THE PAYMENTS WERE ILLEGAL. THE THREE-YEAR STATUTORY PERIOD WITHIN WHICH AUDIT EXCEPTIONS MAY BE TAKEN IN THE ACCOUNTS OF THE DISBURSING OFFICERS CONCERNED IS DRAWING TO A CLOSE. IT ALSO MAY BE OBSERVED THAT THE RELIEF BILL WHICH WAS PENDING IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES DURING BOTH SESSIONS OF THE 87TH CONGRESS.

B-145158, MAY 8, 1963

TO THE SECRETARY OF THE ARMY:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF APRIL 15, 1963, REQUESTING A DECISION AS TO WHETHER COLLECTION ACTION, INITIATED PURSUANT TO OUR DECISION OF AUGUST 10, 1960, B-143582, BUT SUSPENDED PENDING CONGRESSIONAL CONSIDERATION OF H.R. 9262, 87TH CONGRESS, MAY CONTINUE TO BE WITHHELD DURING THE 88TH CONGRESS, OR ANY PART THEREOF, PENDING CONSIDERATION OF NEW PROPOSED LEGISLATION--- H.R. 3354, 88TH CONGRESS. THIS REQUEST HAS BEEN ASSIGNED SUBMISSION NUMBER SS-A-696 BY THE MILITARY PAY AND ALLOWANCE COMMITTEE, DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE.

YOU REFER TO THE REQUEST OF THE HONORABLE FRANK KOWALSKI, FORMER MEMBER OF CONGRESS, TO THIS OFFICE THAT COLLECTION ACTION AGAINST CERTAIN RETIRED SERVICE MEMBERS BE SUSPENDED DURING THE FIRST SESSION OF THE 87TH CONGRESS PENDING CONSIDERATION OF LEGISLATION PROPOSED BY HIM CONCERNING THE RETIRED SERVICE MEMBER. WE ACQUIESCED IN THE REQUEST, SUSPENDING ACTION IN OUR OFFICE, AND IN ADDITION ADVISED THAT WE HAD NO OBJECTION TO THE SUSPENSION OF COLLECTION ACTION BY THE ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICE CONCERNED, PROVIDED THE GOVERNMENT'S RIGHTS WERE NOT PREJUDICED. IT IS UNDERSTOOD THAT THE DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY SUSPENDED COLLECTION ACTION AS TO THE ARMY MEMBERS CONCERNED. AT A LATER DATE REQUEST WAS MADE TO US TO CONTINUE THE SUSPENSION OF ACTION FOR THE PERIOD OF THE SECOND SESSION OF THE 87TH CONGRESS AND FOR A REASONABLE PERIOD AFTER THE CONVENING OF THE 88TH CONGRESS.

SEVERAL CONSIDERATIONS SUGGEST THE ADVISABILITY OF TERMINATING SUSPENSION OF COLLECTION ACTION IN THIS MATTER AT AN EARLY DATE. AMONG THESE CONSIDERATIONS IS THE FACT THAT OUR VIEW THAT THE PAYMENTS WERE ILLEGAL, HAS BEEN JUDICIALLY AFFIRMED. SEE HAISLIP V. UNITED STATES, CT.CL. NO. 442-59, JANUARY 18, 1961. FURTHERMORE, THE THREE-YEAR STATUTORY PERIOD WITHIN WHICH AUDIT EXCEPTIONS MAY BE TAKEN IN THE ACCOUNTS OF THE DISBURSING OFFICERS CONCERNED IS DRAWING TO A CLOSE, AND THE INTERESTS OF THE GOVERNMENT REQUIRE THAT THE RIGHT OF ACTION AGAINST THESE DISBURSING OFFICERS AND THEIR SURETIES NOT BE LOST BY INACTION. SEE 31 U.S.C. 821.

IT ALSO MAY BE OBSERVED THAT THE RELIEF BILL WHICH WAS PENDING IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES DURING BOTH SESSIONS OF THE 87TH CONGRESS, WAS NOT REPORTED OUT OF COMMITTEE. THIS OFFICE IS OPPOSED TO BILLS OF THIS NATURE AS THEY TEND TO UNDERMINE THE PRINCIPLE ON WHICH THE TEN YEAR STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS IS BASED.

THE INDEBTEDNESSES OF SEVERAL RETIRED MEMBERS TO WHOM THE ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS WERE MADE HAVE NOT BEEN REPORTED TO OUR OFFICE AS UNCOLLECTIBLE ITEMS, AND THEREFORE THE COLLECTION OR THE SUSPENSION OF COLLECTION THEREOF FROM THE DEBTORS IS A MATTER FOR THE CONSIDERATION OF THE DEPARTMENT CONCERNED. ON THE BASIS OF THE PRESENT RECORD COLLECTION ACTION BY THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE BY AUDIT EXCEPTION, OR OTHERWISE, WILL NOT BE DEFERRED BEYOND JUNE 30, 1963. IT IS SUGGESTED THAT COLLECTION ACTION BY THE DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY BE NOT DEFERRED BEYOND THAT DATE.