B-157868, NOV. 2, 1965

B-157868: Nov 2, 1965

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TO SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR: REFERENCE IS MADE TO LETTER OF MAY 28. THE FACTS CONCERNING THE SHORTAGE ARE SET FORTH IN THE LETTER OF SEPTEMBER 14. AS OLLOWS: "THE IMPREST FUND WAS KEPT IN A CASH BOX IN THE DRAWER OF A SAFE FILE CABINET WITH A COMBINATION LOCK. ALL FUNDS WERE ACCOUNTED FOR AND PLACED IN THE SAFE-FILE CABINET BY THE IMPREST FUND CASHIER. THE SAFE WAS LOCKED AT THAT TIME. THE IMPREST FUND WAS USED BY THE IMPREST FUND CASHIER TO MAKE A FIVE CENT PAYMENT FOR POSTAGE DUE. THERE WERE NO OTHER TRANSACTIONS FROM THE IMPREST FUND ON MAY 18. THE IMPREST FUND CASHIER REQUIRED CASH TO PAY A BILL AND DISCOVERED THE FUNDS WERE MISSING. THE LOSS WAS IMMEDIATELY REPORTED TO THE DISTRICT MANAGER AND TO THE FBI.

B-157868, NOV. 2, 1965

TO SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO LETTER OF MAY 28, 1965, FROM THE DEPUTY UNDER SECRETARY OF THE INTERIOR, AND SUBSEQUENT LETTER OF SEPTEMBER 14, 1965, FROM THE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, CONCERNING A SHORTAGE OF $220.99 IN THE ACCOUNTS OF IMPREST FUND CASHIER, MARGARET E. FREY, IN THE OFFICE OF THE BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT AT FARMINGTON, NEW MEXICO.

THE FACTS CONCERNING THE SHORTAGE ARE SET FORTH IN THE LETTER OF SEPTEMBER 14, 1965, AS OLLOWS:

"THE IMPREST FUND WAS KEPT IN A CASH BOX IN THE DRAWER OF A SAFE FILE CABINET WITH A COMBINATION LOCK. ON FRIDAY, MAY 15, 1964, ALL FUNDS WERE ACCOUNTED FOR AND PLACED IN THE SAFE-FILE CABINET BY THE IMPREST FUND CASHIER, MARGARET E. FREY, AND AS FAR AS CAN BE DETERMINED, THE SAFE WAS LOCKED AT THAT TIME. ON MONDAY, MAY 18, 1964, THE IMPREST FUND WAS USED BY THE IMPREST FUND CASHIER TO MAKE A FIVE CENT PAYMENT FOR POSTAGE DUE. THERE WERE NO OTHER TRANSACTIONS FROM THE IMPREST FUND ON MAY 18, 1964. AT ABOUT 9:45 A.M., ON TUESDAY, MAY 19, 1964, THE IMPREST FUND CASHIER REQUIRED CASH TO PAY A BILL AND DISCOVERED THE FUNDS WERE MISSING. THE LOSS WAS IMMEDIATELY REPORTED TO THE DISTRICT MANAGER AND TO THE FBI. ACCOUNTING OF THE FUNDS WAS MADE IN THE PRESENCE OF JERRY VAN LENCKER, AN EMPLOYEE OF THE FBI AND THE SHORTAGE WAS DETERMINED TO BE $220.89. SUBSEQUENT COUNTING ESTABLISHED THE SHORTAGE AS $220.99.

"THERE WAS NO EVIDENCE OF FORCED ENTRY AND AN INVESTIGATION FAILED TO INDICATE HOW THE LOSS OCCURRED. THERE WAS NO EVIDENCE THAT THE SAFE WAS LEFT UNLOCKED AND UNATTENDED FROM FRIDAY, MAY 15, 1964, AND TUESDAY, MAY 19, 1964. THE FBI CONDUCTED AN EXTENSIVE INVESTIGATION WITH NO APPARENT SUCCESS.'

IN VIEW OF THE ABOVE AND THE FACT THAT THE IMPREST FUND CASHIER, MARGARET FREY, WAS NOT IMPLICATED IN THE LOSS, REQUEST IS MADE THAT SHE BE GRANTED RELIEF IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE ACT OF AUGUST 1, 1947, AS AMENDED BY THE ACT OF AUGUST 9, 1955, 69 STAT. 626, 31 U.S.C. 82A-1.

IN ORDER THAT RELIEF MIGHT BE GRANTED UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF LAW REFERRED TO ABOVE, IT MUST BE ESTABLISHED THAT THE LOSS OCCURRED WITHOUT FAULT OR NEGLIGENCE ON THE PART OF THE OFFICER OR AGENT INVOLVED. THE MERE FACT THAT THE IMPREST FUND CASHIER WAS NOT IMPLICATED IN THE LOSS IS NOT EQUIVALENT TO A FINDING THAT THERE WAS NO FAULT OR NEGLIGENCE ON HER PART. A GOVERNMENT OFFICIAL CHARGED WITH THE HANDLING OF PUBLIC MONEYS IS EXPECTED TO EXERCISE THE HIGHEST DEGREE OF CARE IN THE PERFORMANCE OF HIS DUTY AND, EVEN THOUGH THERE MAY BE NO POSITIVE EVIDENCE OF NEGLIGENCE ON HIS PART, WHEN FUNDS DISAPPEAR WITHOUT EXPLANATION OR EVIDENT REASON, THE PRESUMPTION NATURALLY ARISES THAT THE OFFICIAL HAVING RESPONSIBILITY FOR SUCH FUNDS WAS DERELICT IN SOME WAY.

ACCORDINGLY, IN THE ABSENCE OF EVIDENCE AS TO HOW THE MONEY DISAPPEARED WE ARE UNABLE TO CONCUR WITH THE ADMINISTRATIVE DETERMINATION THAT THE LOSS OCCURRED WITHOUT FAULT OR NEGLIGENCE ON THE PART OF MARGARET FREY AND, HENCE, CANNOT GRANT RELIEF ON THE BASIS OF THE PRESENT RECORD.