B-147587, DECEMBER 18, 1961, 41 COMP. GEN. 410

B-147587: Dec 18, 1961

Additional Materials:

Contact:

Edda Emmanuelli Perez
(202) 512-2853
EmmanuelliPerezE@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

IS A CONTRACTUAL RIGHT DEPENDENT UPON AN OFFER AND UPON KNOWLEDGE OF THE OFFER BY THE PERSON AT THE TIME THE INFORMATION IS FURNISHED. AN INDIVIDUAL WHO HAS NO KNOWLEDGE OF A COAST GUARD REWARD OFFER AT THE TIME OF FURNISHING INFORMATION LEADING TO THE RECOVERY OF PROPERTY IS NOT ENTITLED TO PAYMENT OF A REWARD. THERE IS NO GENERAL AUTHORITY UNDER WHICH THE COAST GUARD MAY MAKE REASONABLE PAYMENTS FOR VOLUNTARY AND UNSOLICITED SERVICES INCIDENT TO THE RETURN OF. 1961: REFERENCE IS MADE TO LETTER OF NOVEMBER 9. REGARDLESS OF (A) WHETHER A REWARD OFFER HAS BEEN PUBLISHED OR (B) WHETHER THERE IS ANY KNOWLEDGE OF A PUBLISHED OFFER. (2) THERE IS ANY GENERAL AUTHORITY. DESPITE THE FACT THAT THEY ARE VOLUNTARY AND UNSOLICITED.

B-147587, DECEMBER 18, 1961, 41 COMP. GEN. 410

AWARDS - FINDERS OF GOVERNMENT PROPERTY - KNOWLEDGE OF REWARD OFFER AS CONDITION TO ENTITLEMENT--- AWARDS - FINDERS OF GOVERNMENT PROPERTY - NATURE OF RIGHT, IN GENERAL--- AWARDS - FINDERS OF GOVERNMENT PROPERTY AUTHORITY IN VIEW OF THE DEFINITIONS OF THE TERM "REWARD," WHICH CLEARLY CONTEMPLATE THAT BEFORE AN AWARD MAY BE PAID THERE FIRST MUST BE AN OFFER TO PAY, AND OF THE LANGUAGE IN 14 U.S.C. 643 PROVIDING THAT " THE COAST GUARD MAY OFFER AND PAY REWARDS * * *" FOR INFORMATION LEADING TO RECOVERY OF LOST COAST GUARD PROPERTY, WHICH REQUIRES AN OFFER BY THE COAST GUARD AS A CONDITION PRECEDENT TO THE PAYMENT OF A REWARD, THE COAST GUARD MAY NOT PAY A REWARD FOR THE RETURN OF, OR FOR INFORMATION LEADING TO RECOVERY OF, MISSING PROPERTY WHEN A REWARD OFFER HAS NOT BEEN PUBLISHED. A RIGHT TO PAYMENT OF A REWARD BY THE COAST GUARD FOR INFORMATION LEADING TO THE RECOVERY OF MISSING COAST GUARD PROPERTY PURSUANT TO 14 U.S.C. 643, WHICH AUTHORIZES THE PAYMENT OF REWARDS AFTER PUBLICATION OF A REWARD OFFER, IS A CONTRACTUAL RIGHT DEPENDENT UPON AN OFFER AND UPON KNOWLEDGE OF THE OFFER BY THE PERSON AT THE TIME THE INFORMATION IS FURNISHED; THEREFORE, AN INDIVIDUAL WHO HAS NO KNOWLEDGE OF A COAST GUARD REWARD OFFER AT THE TIME OF FURNISHING INFORMATION LEADING TO THE RECOVERY OF PROPERTY IS NOT ENTITLED TO PAYMENT OF A REWARD. OTHER THAN THE AUTHORITY CONTAINED IN 14 U.S.C. 643 FOR PAYMENT OF REWARDS BY THE COAST GUARD FOR INFORMATION WHICH LEADS TO THE RECOVERY OF MISSING COAST GUARD PROPERTY, THERE IS NO GENERAL AUTHORITY UNDER WHICH THE COAST GUARD MAY MAKE REASONABLE PAYMENTS FOR VOLUNTARY AND UNSOLICITED SERVICES INCIDENT TO THE RETURN OF, OR FURNISHING OF INFORMATION LEADING TO THE RECOVERY OF, MISSING COAST GUARD PROPERTY.

TO THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY, DECEMBER 18, 1961:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO LETTER OF NOVEMBER 9, 1961, FROM THE ACTING ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY IN WHICH HE REFERS TO THE PROVISIONS OF 14 U.S.C. 643 AND ASKS WHETHER

(1) THE COAST GUARD MAY PAY A REWARD FOR THE RETURN OF, OR FOR INFORMATION LEADING TO RECOVERY OF, MISSING PROPERTY, REGARDLESS OF (A) WHETHER A REWARD OFFER HAS BEEN PUBLISHED OR (B) WHETHER THERE IS ANY KNOWLEDGE OF A PUBLISHED OFFER; AND

(2) THERE IS ANY GENERAL AUTHORITY, WITHOUT REGARD TO THAT CONTAINED IN 14 U.S.C. 643, FOR THE COAST GUARD TO MAKE REASONABLE PAYMENTS FOR SUCH SERVICES, DESPITE THE FACT THAT THEY ARE VOLUNTARY AND UNSOLICITED.

SECTION 643 READS AS FOLLOWS:

THE COAST GUARD MAY OFFER AND PAY REWARDS FOR THE APPREHENSION AND CONVICTION, OR FOR INFORMATION HELPFUL THEREIN, OF PERSONS FOUND INTERFERING IN VIOLATION OF LAW WITH AIDS TO NAVIGATION MAINTAINED BY THE COAST GUARD; OR FOR INFORMATION LEADING TO THE DISCOVERY OF MISSING COAST GUARD PROPERTY OR TO RECOVERY THEREOF.

IT IS STATED THAT NORMAL PROCEDURES, IMPLEMENTING THE AUTHORITY CONTAINED IN SECTION 643, PROVIDE FOR THE PUBLISHING OF REWARD OFFERS FOR INFORMATION LEADING TO THE RECOVERY OF MISSING COAST GUARD PROPERTY, SUCH AS BUOYS WHICH ARE OCCASIONALLY SET ADRIFT BY UNUSUALLY STRONG CURRENTS, ICE MOVEMENTS OR BY BEING STRUCK AND DRAGGED OFF STATION BY PASSING VESSELS. THE REWARDS OFFERED ARE THEN PAID TO THE PERSON WHO FURNISHED THE INFORMATION LEADING TO RECOVERY.

WITH RESPECT TO THE QUESTIONS PRESENTED FOR DECISION, IT IS EXPLAINED THAT IN SOME CASES, EVEN WHERE NO SUCH REWARD OFFER IS PUBLISHED, OR WHERE THERE IS NO KNOWLEDGE THEREOF, IT IS CONSIDERED DESIRABLE TO PAY AN APPROPRIATE REWARD FOR SIMILAR SERVICES. DOUBT AS TO THE PROPRIETY OF PAYMENT IN SUCH CASES IS SAID TO ARISE BECAUSE OF OUR DECISION APPEARING IN 26 COMP. GEN. 605.

A REWARD IS DEFINED IN 77 C.J.S., REWARDS, SECTION 1, AS BEING A SUM OF MONEY OR OTHER COMPENSATION OFFERED TO THE PUBLIC GENERALLY, OR TO A CLASS OF PERSONS, FOR THE PERFORMANCE OF A DESIGNATED SERVICE. SIMILARLY, IN 46 AM. JUR., REWARDS, SECTION 2, IT IS STATED THAT "A REWARD HAS BEEN DEFINED AS A RECOMPENSE OR A PREMIUM OFFERED BY THE GOVERNMENT OR AN INDIVIDUAL IN RETURN FOR SPECIAL OR EXTRAORDINARY SERVICES TO BE PERFORMED. IT IS A SUM OF MONEY OR OTHER COMPENSATION OFFERED TO THE PUBLIC GENERALLY, OR TO A CLASS OF PERSONS, FOR THE PERFORMANCE OF A DESIGNATED SERVICE, AS FOR FINDING LOST PROPERTY, OR FOR FORBEARING TO DO SOME ACT.' ( ITALICS SUPPLIED.)

THE FOREGOING DEFINITIONS OF THE TERM "REWARD" THUS CLEARLY CONTEMPLATE THAT BEFORE AN AWARD PROPERLY MAY BE CLAIMED THERE MUST FIRST HAVE BEEN MADE AN OFFER TO PAY. FURTHERMORE, THE STATUTORY LANGUAGE HERE INVOLVED PROVIDING THAT " THE COAST GUARD MAY OFFER AND PAY REWARDS * * *" DOES NOT ITSELF CONSTITUTE AN OFFER TO PAY A REWARD BUT REQUIRES AS A CONDITION PRECEDENT TO THE PAYMENT OF A REWARD THAT AN OFFER TO PAY SUCH REWARD MUST FIRST HAVE BEEN MADE BY THE COAST GUARD. SEE 11 COMP. DEC. 741 AND 20 ID. 767.

PART (A) OF QUESTION 1, THEREFORE, IS ANSWERED IN THE NEGATIVE.

WITH RESPECT TO PART (B) OF QUESTION 1, IT WAS HELD IN OUR DECISION, 26 COMP. GEN. 605, QUOTING FROM THE SYLLABUS, THAT---

A PERSON WHO HAD NO KNOWLEDGE OF THE NAVY DEPARTMENT'S OFFER OF A REWARD FOR INFORMATION LEADING TO THE DISCOVERY OF A LOST NAVY AIRPLANE AT THE TIME HE DISCOVERED IT AND REPORTED ITS LOCATION TO THE PROPER AUTHORITIES IS NOT ENTITLED TO PAYMENT OF THE REWARD.

DURING THE COURSE OF THAT DECISION WE STATED THAT---

A RIGHT TO A REWARD IS CONTRACTUAL IN NATURE AND CAN BE DERIVED ONLY UNDER A BINDING AND ENFORCEABLE CONTRACT WHICH RESTS ON ONE SIDE UPON A VALID OFFER AND ON THE OTHER UPON A VALID ACCEPTANCE OF SUCH OFFER. ACCORDING TO THE GREAT WEIGHT OF AUTHORITY, IN ORDER TO BE ENTITLED TO A REWARD OFFERED FOR A SPECIAL SERVICE, THE PERSON RENDERING SUCH SERVICE MUST HAVE KNOWLEDGE AT THE TIME IT IS PERFORMED OF THE OFFER OF A REWARD THEREFOR. * * *

THE RULE SET FORTH THEREIN WHILE PARTICULARLY APPLICABLE IN CASES OF REWARDS OFFERED BY INDIVIDUALS LIKEWISE HAS BEEN HELD APPLICABLE IN CASES OF REWARDS OFFERED BY GOVERNMENTAL AGENCIES. SEE GLOVER V. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, 77 A.2D 788 (1951), IN WHICH THE COURT STATED THAT:

WE THINK THAT WHEN REWARDS ARE OFFERED BY GOVERNMENTAL AGENCIES, NO LESS THAN WHEN OFFERED BY PRIVATE ORGANIZATIONS, THE RULES OF CONTRACT LAW APPLY AND A CLAIMANT IS PUT TO THE NECESSITY OF SHOWING THAT HE KNEW OF THE OFFER AND ACTED UPON IT.

WHILE THERE IS A LINE OF CASES INDICATING THAT THE RULE OF CONTRACT DOES NOT APPLY WITH RESPECT TO REWARDS OFFERED PURSUANT TO STATUTE (SEE CASES REFERRED TO IN FOOTNOTE 3 IN GLOVER V. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA), SUCH CASES APPEAR TO REPRESENT THE MINORITY VIEW. IN ANY EVENT WE BELIEVE THAT SUCH EXCEPTION TO THE GENERAL RULE PROPERLY IS NOT FOR APPLICATION IN CASES OF REWARDS OFFERED PURSUANT TO STATUTORY AUTHORITY SUCH AS THAT CONTAINED IN 14 U.S.C. 643.

PART (B) OF QUESTION 1, THEREFORE, IS ANSWERED IN THE NEGATIVE.

CONCERNING THE SECOND QUESTION PRESENTED FOR CONSIDERATION, YOU ARE ADVISED THAT WE KNOW OF NO GENERAL AUTHORITY OTHER THAN THAT CONTAINED IN 14 U.S.C. 643 WHEREBY THE COAST GUARD MAY MAKE REASONABLE PAYMENTS FOR VOLUNTARY AND UNSOLICITED SERVICES SUCH AS THOSE CONSIDERED HEREIN.