B-158453, FEB. 10, 1966

B-158453: Feb 10, 1966

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE: WE HAVE YOUR LETTER OF JANUARY 27. YOU POINT OUT THAT THE BILL IS THE RESULT OF A RATE INCREASE FROM $12.50 PER MONTH TO $14 PER MONTH EFFECTIVE ON SEPTEMBER 5. YOUR REMITTANCE ON THE SEPTEMBER 5 BILL WAS FOR SERVICE FOR THE PERIOD AUGUST 5. THE RATE INCREASE WAS EFFECTIVE ON SEPTEMBER 5 AND YOU. WITHOUT REGARD TO THE FACT THAT THE GENERAL PUBLIC IS BEING BILLED FOR THE INCREASE FOR THE PERIOD SEPTEMBER 5. WHILE YOU ARE BEING BILLED FOR THE PERIOD AUGUST 5. YOU ARE CURRENTLY RECEIVING BILLS FROM OTHER SOUTHWESTERN BELL TELEPHONE COMPANY OFFICES WHICH SHOW RESIDUAL BALANCES MONTH AFTER MONTH BECAUSE OF DEDUCTIONS MADE FOR RATE INCREASES BILLED IN ADVANCE. IT APPEARS THERE MUST BE A MISUNDERSTANDING ON THE PART OF SOUTHWESTERN BELL TELEPHONE COMPANY AS TO THE FACT THAT IT IS BILLING THE GOVERNMENT FOR SERVICE ALREADY RENDERED.

B-158453, FEB. 10, 1966

TO MRS. I. F. INGRAM, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE:

WE HAVE YOUR LETTER OF JANUARY 27, 1966, SUBMITTING A BILL IN THE AMOUNT OF $1.50 FROM SOUTHWESTERN BELL TELEPHONE COMPANY, DONNA, TEXAS, FOR ADVANCE DECISION AS TO WHETHER OR NOT IT MAY BE CERTIFIED FOR PAYMENT. YOU POINT OUT THAT THE BILL IS THE RESULT OF A RATE INCREASE FROM $12.50 PER MONTH TO $14 PER MONTH EFFECTIVE ON SEPTEMBER 5, 1965, AND THAT SINCE YOU DO NOT MAKE ADVANCE PAYMENTS, YOUR REMITTANCE ON THE SEPTEMBER 5 BILL WAS FOR SERVICE FOR THE PERIOD AUGUST 5, 1965, TO SEPTEMBER 4, 1965. THE RATE INCREASE WAS EFFECTIVE ON SEPTEMBER 5 AND YOU, THEREFORE, DEDUCTED THE $1.50 INCREASE FROM THE TOTAL AMOUNT OF THE BILL.

YOU FURTHER POINT OUT THAT SOUTHWESTERN BELL TELEPHONE HAS INTERPRETED THE INCREASE TO BE EFFECTIVE WITH BILLS DATED SEPTEMBER 5, 1965, WITHOUT REGARD TO THE FACT THAT THE GENERAL PUBLIC IS BEING BILLED FOR THE INCREASE FOR THE PERIOD SEPTEMBER 5, 1965, TO OCTOBER 4, 1965, WHILE YOU ARE BEING BILLED FOR THE PERIOD AUGUST 5, 1965, TO SEPTEMBER 4, 1965. A RESULT OF THIS INTERPRETATION, YOU ARE CURRENTLY RECEIVING BILLS FROM OTHER SOUTHWESTERN BELL TELEPHONE COMPANY OFFICES WHICH SHOW RESIDUAL BALANCES MONTH AFTER MONTH BECAUSE OF DEDUCTIONS MADE FOR RATE INCREASES BILLED IN ADVANCE.

FROM THE INFORMATION IN YOUR LETTER AND ENCLOSURES THERETO, IT APPEARS THERE MUST BE A MISUNDERSTANDING ON THE PART OF SOUTHWESTERN BELL TELEPHONE COMPANY AS TO THE FACT THAT IT IS BILLING THE GOVERNMENT FOR SERVICE ALREADY RENDERED, RATHER THAN ON AN ADVANCE BASIS AS IT DOES FOR OTHER CUSTOMERS. SUCH PROCEDURE FOR BILLING THE GOVERNMENT AFTER SERVICES ARE RENDERED IS REQUIRED IN LIGHT OF THE GENERAL PROHIBITION AT 31 U.S.C. 529 AGAINST PAYMENT OF PUBLIC MONEY IN ADVANCE OF RECEIPT OF GOODS OR SERVICES. 42 COMP. GEN. 659. SINCE, ON THE BASIS OF THE FACTS PRESENTED, REMITTANCE OF THE AMOUNT IN QUESTION WOULD CONSTITUTE AN ADVANCE CONTRARY TO THE CITED STATUTE, A VOUCHER COVERING THE COMPANY'S BILL MAY NOT BE CERTIFIED FOR PAYMENT.