B-158804, MAY 3, 1966

B-158804: May 3, 1966

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ON THE BASIS OF WHAT WAS DETERMINED TO BE REASONABLE. THE OPINION IS EXPRESSED BY THE MEDICAL DIRECTOR THAT EXCESSIVE AND UNREASONABLE ADDITIONAL UNIT CHARGES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN IN CONFLICT AND NOW THE CAUSE OF STRONG CRITICISM AGAINST THE COMPANY. ON THE OTHER HAND THE COMPANY CONTENDS THAT THE ADDITIONAL UNITS FOR THE PERIODS BILLED WERE CONSUMED AND THE CHARGES ARE PROPER.'. YOU STATE THAT YOUR OFFICE IS UNABLE TO DETERMINE WHETHER THE BASIS FOR COMPUTING THE ADDITIONAL UNIT CHARGES IS CORRECT AND. THE STATEMENTS AND COPIES OF CORRESPONDENCE FURNISHED WITH YOUR REQUEST ARE NOT SUFFICIENT TO ENABLE US TO REACH ANY DEFINITE CONCLUSION WITH RESPECT TO THE CHARGES BILLED. APPARENTLY THE CHARGES WERE BILLED UNDER CONTRACT.

B-158804, MAY 3, 1966

TO THE AUTHORIZED CERTIFYING OFFICER, PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, EDUCATION, AND WELFARE:

BY LETTER OF MARCH 21, 1966, FIN:CFO, YOU REQUESTED OUR DECISION AS TO THE VALIDITY OF A CLAIM BY THE PUERTO RICO TELEPHONE COMPANY FOR ADDITIONAL MESSAGE UNIT CHARGES NOT PREVIOUSLY BILLED FOR THE PERIOD MARCH 1964 TO DECEMBER 1964, AND FOR THE PERIOD JANUARY 1965 TO SEPTEMBER 1965, IN CONNECTION WITH TELEPHONE SERVICE PROVIDED AT THE UNITED STATES PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE SAN JUAN OUTPATIENT CLINIC.

THE AMOUNT BILLED BY THE PUERTO RICO TELEPHONE COMPANY FOR ADDITIONAL UNIT CHARGES OVER THE PERIODS INVOLVED TOTALS $4,409. ON THE BASIS OF WHAT WAS DETERMINED TO BE REASONABLE, THE MEDICAL DIRECTOR OF THE CLINIC AUTHORIZED A PAYMENT OF $2,722.90 LEAVING $1,686.10 UNPAID. YOU POINT OUT THAT:

"THE CERTIFYING OFFICER OF THE SERVICING ACCOUNTING OFFICE, USPHS HOSPITAL STATEN ISLAND, AND MEDICAL DIRECTOR OF THE CLINIC QUESTION THE CORRECTNESS OF THE CHARGES. THE OPINION IS EXPRESSED BY THE MEDICAL DIRECTOR THAT EXCESSIVE AND UNREASONABLE ADDITIONAL UNIT CHARGES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN IN CONFLICT AND NOW THE CAUSE OF STRONG CRITICISM AGAINST THE COMPANY. ON THE OTHER HAND THE COMPANY CONTENDS THAT THE ADDITIONAL UNITS FOR THE PERIODS BILLED WERE CONSUMED AND THE CHARGES ARE PROPER.'

YOU STATE THAT YOUR OFFICE IS UNABLE TO DETERMINE WHETHER THE BASIS FOR COMPUTING THE ADDITIONAL UNIT CHARGES IS CORRECT AND, THEREFORE, REQUEST OUR DECISION IN THE MATTER.

THE STATEMENTS AND COPIES OF CORRESPONDENCE FURNISHED WITH YOUR REQUEST ARE NOT SUFFICIENT TO ENABLE US TO REACH ANY DEFINITE CONCLUSION WITH RESPECT TO THE CHARGES BILLED. APPARENTLY THE CHARGES WERE BILLED UNDER CONTRACT--- SAPH 39873--- BUT A COPY OF THE CONTRACT WAS NOT INCLUDED AMONG THE ENCLOSURES TO YOUR LETTER. HOWEVER, WE NOTE THAT THE CHARGES WERE BILLED PURSUANT TO PUBLISHED TARIFFS, AND WE ASSUME THAT THE CONTRACT INVOLVED DOES NOT ALTER THE RATE STRUCTURE APPLICABLE TO THE UNITED STATES.

THE TELEPHONE COMPANY IS REGULATED BY THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION OF PUERTO RICO ESTABLISHED BY THE PUERTO RICO SERVICE ACT OF JUNE 28, 1962, LAWS OF PUERTO RICO ANNOTATED, TITLE 27, SECTION 1001 ET SEQ., 1963 CUMULATIVE SUPPLEMENT. THE COMMISSION IS EMPOWERED TO PRESCRIBE RATES, SECTION 1104; TO DETERMINE WHETHER RATES COLLECTED EXCEED RATES FILED AND TO REQUIRE THE PAYMENT OF DAMAGES WHERE A PUBLIC SERVICE COMPANY HAS COLLECTED EXCESSIVE RATES, SECTION 1107; TO PROVIDE ACCOUNTING SYSTEMS FOR AND EXAMINE RECORDS OF PUBLIC SERVICE COMPANIES, SECTION 1109; AND TO HEAR COMPLAINTS FROM ANY PERSON OR GOVERNMENT INSTRUMENTALITY CONCERNING ACTIVITIES OF PUBLIC SERVICE COMPANIES, SECTION 1256.

IN VIEW OF THE REGULATED CHARACTER OF THE PUERTO RICO TELEPHONE COMPANY AND OF THE SPECIFIC PROVISIONS UNDER PUERTO RICO LAWS FOR HANDLING COMPLAINTS WITH REGARD TO AMOUNTS BILLED BY REGULATED PUBLIC SERVICE COMPANIES AND SINCE THE RECORD IS NOT SUSCEPTIBLE OF AN ACCURATE DETERMINATION BY THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE AS TO THE PRECISE EXTENT OF SERVICES RECEIVED FROM THE TELEPHONE COMPANY, WE WOULD HAVE NO ALTERNATIVE BUT TO AUTHORIZE PAYMENT OF THE COMPANY'S CLAIM UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES INVOLVED. HOWEVER, WE ARE BRINGING THE MATTER TO THE ATTENTION OF THE SECRETARY OF HEALTH, EDUCATION, AND WELFARE FOR CONSIDERATION IN CONNECTION WITH THE POSSIBLE NECESSITY FOR LODGING A COMPLAINT WITH THE PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION OF PUERTO RICO.