B-167759, DECEMBER 1, 1969, 49 COMP. GEN. 359

B-167759: Dec 1, 1969

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THE AUTHORIZED DISTANCE AND/OR WEIGHT ALLOWANCE PRESCRIBED BY PARAGRAPH M8003 OF THE JOINT TRAVEL REGULATIONS ARE EXCEEDED. THAT RECOGNIZES THE DIMINISHING RETURNS BEYOND WHICH FURTHER COLLECTION EFFORTS ARE NOT JUSTIFIED. 1969: REFERENCE IS MADE TO LETTER OF AUGUST 1. TO WAIVE IN ADVANCE OF PAYMENT COLLECTION OF EXCESS COSTS OF $10 OR LESS IN CONNECTION WITH SHIPMENT OF HOUSEHOLD GOODS OF MEMBERS WHO ARE BEING SEPARATED FROM THE SERVICE. A MEMBER IS ENTITLED TO TRANSPORTATION (INCLUDING PACKING. THE MAXIMUM WEIGHT ALLOWANCE WHICH MAY BE TRANSPORTED IN ANY CASE IS 13. SECTION 411 OF TITLE 37 PROVIDES THAT THE SECRETARIES CONCERNED SHALL PRESCRIBE REGULATIONS THAT ARE. UNIFORM REGULATIONS FOR TRANSPORTATION OF HOUSEHOLD EFFECTS OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES ARE PRESCRIBED IN CHAPTER 8.

B-167759, DECEMBER 1, 1969, 49 COMP. GEN. 359

DEBT COLLECTIONS -- WAIVER -- KNOWN V AFTER DETERMINED OVERPAYMENTS THE ADVANCE COLLECTION OF THE EXCESS COSTS TO SHIP THE HOUSEHOLD GOODS OF SEPARATED MEMBERS OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES, EXCESS COSTS THAT ARISE WHEN SHIPMENTS CONSIST OF MORE THAN ONE LOT, AND THE AUTHORIZED DISTANCE AND/OR WEIGHT ALLOWANCE PRESCRIBED BY PARAGRAPH M8003 OF THE JOINT TRAVEL REGULATIONS ARE EXCEEDED, MAY NOT BE WAIVED FOR EXCESS COSTS OF $10 OR LESS, FOR IN THE ABSENCE OF STATUTORY AUTHORITY, THE WAIVER WOULD AUTHORIZE A KNOWN OVERPAYMENT. THE WAIVER AUTHORITY IN TITLE 4 OF THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE POLICY AND PROCEDURES MANUAL SECTION 55.3, AND SECTION 3(B) OF THE FEDERAL CLAIMS COLLECTION ACT OF 1966, THAT RECOGNIZES THE DIMINISHING RETURNS BEYOND WHICH FURTHER COLLECTION EFFORTS ARE NOT JUSTIFIED, RELATES TO AFTER DETERMINED OVERPAYMENTS. HOWEVER, UNIFORM REGULATIONS MAY ISSUE TO DISCONTINUE THE COLLECTION OF SMALL EXCESS COST AMOUNTS DISCOVERED AFTER SHIPMENT, WHERE THE COST OF COLLECTION WOULD EXCEED THE DEBT.

TO THE SECRETARY OF DEFENSE, DECEMBER 1, 1969:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO LETTER OF AUGUST 1, 1969, AFSTPL, FROM THE OFFICE OF THE DIRECTORATE OF TRANSPORTATION, DCS/S&L, DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE, REQUESTING OUR COMMENTS ON A PROPOSED CHANGE IN PARAGRAPH 5703F, AIR FORCE MANUAL 75-4, TO WAIVE IN ADVANCE OF PAYMENT COLLECTION OF EXCESS COSTS OF $10 OR LESS IN CONNECTION WITH SHIPMENT OF HOUSEHOLD GOODS OF MEMBERS WHO ARE BEING SEPARATED FROM THE SERVICE.

SECTION 406(B) OF TITLE 37, U.S.C. PROVIDES THAT IN CONNECTION WITH A CHANGE OF TEMPORARY OR PERMANENT STATION, A MEMBER IS ENTITLED TO TRANSPORTATION (INCLUDING PACKING, CRATING, DRAYAGE, TEMPORARY STORAGE, AND UNPACKING) OF BAGGAGE AND HOUSEHOLD EFFECTS WITHIN WEIGHT ALLOWANCES PRESCRIBED BY THE SECRETARIES. UNDER A CONTINUING FUND LIMITATION EXPENDITURE PROVISION INCLUDED IN THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE APPROPRIATION ACTS, HOWEVER, THE MAXIMUM WEIGHT ALLOWANCE WHICH MAY BE TRANSPORTED IN ANY CASE IS 13,500 POUNDS. SECTION 509 OF PUBLIC LAW 90 580, APPROVED OCTOBER 17, 1968, 82 STAT. 1132. SECTION 411 OF TITLE 37 PROVIDES THAT THE SECRETARIES CONCERNED SHALL PRESCRIBE REGULATIONS THAT ARE, AS FAR AS PRACTICABLE, UNIFORM FOR ALL OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES.

UNIFORM REGULATIONS FOR TRANSPORTATION OF HOUSEHOLD EFFECTS OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICES ARE PRESCRIBED IN CHAPTER 8, VOLUME 1, OF THE JOINT TRAVEL REGULATIONS. PARAGRAPH M8007 OF THOSE REGULATIONS PROVIDES THAT THE GOVERNMENT'S MAXIMUM TRANSPORTATION OBLIGATION IS THE COST OF A THROUGH HOUSEHOLD GOODS MOVEMENT OF THE MEMBER'S PRESCRIBED WEIGHT ALLOWANCE (PARAGRAPH M8003) IN ONE LOT BETWEEN AUTHORIZED PLACES. FURTHER PROVIDES THAT THE MEMBER WILL BEAR ALL TRANSPORTATION COSTS ARISING FROM SHIPMENT IN MORE THAN ONE LOT, FOR DISTANCE IN EXCESS OF THAT BETWEEN AUTHORIZED PLACES AND FOR WEIGHTS IN EXCESS OF THE MAXIMUM ALLOWANCE PRESCRIBED IN PARAGRAPH M8003.

PARAGRAPH M8010 OF THE JOINT TRAVEL REGULATIONS PROVIDES THAT UPON DISCHARGE, RESIGNATION, OR SEPARATION OF MEMBERS FROM ACTIVE DUTY WHO WILL NOT THEREAFTER BE IN A PAY STATUS OF THE UNIFORMED SERVICE CONCERNED, SHIPMENTS WHICH WILL INVOLVE EXCESS COSTS MAY BE MADE "PROVIDED SUCH EXCESS COSTS ARE COLLECTED IN CASH FROM THE MEMBER *** IN ADVANCE OF THE SHIPMENT." NO EXCEPTION TO THIS REQUIREMENT IS STATED IN THE JOINT TRAVEL REGULATIONS.

PARAGRAPH 10-1B, ARMY REGULATIONS 55-71 (CHANGE 6, JANUARY 27, 1969), REPEATS THE PROVISIONS OF PARAGRAPH M8010 OF THE JOINT TRAVEL REGULATIONS FOR ADVANCE COLLECTION OF EXCESS COSTS WITH THE FURTHER PROVISION THAT TRANSPORTATION OFFICERS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR EFFECTING THESE COLLECTIONS, BUT THAT "COLLECTION ACTION IS WAIVED FOR AMOUNTS OF $10 AND LESS DUE TO ADMINISTRATIVE AND OPERATIONAL COSTS INVOLVED." THE AIR FORCE PROPOSAL IS TO AMEND AIR FORCE MANUAL 75-4 TO CORRESPOND WITH THAT PROVISION IN ARMY REGULATIONS 55-71.

THE DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY, BY CHANGE 14, APRIL 24, 1969, AMENDED VOLUME V, NAVY SUPPLY SYSTEMS COMMAND MANUAL, BY ADDING PARAGRAPH 58022 3C TO AUTHORIZE COMMANDING OFFICERS OF DESIGNATED HOUSEHOLD GOODS SHIPPING ACTIVITIES TO WAIVE COLLECTION OF EXCESS COSTS PRIOR TO SHIPMENT OF THE GOODS WHEN THE EXCESS COST IS $5 OR LESS AND THE EXPENSE TO COLLECT IT IS EXPECTED TO BE GREATER. THUS, THE REGULATIONS IN THIS RESPECT ARE NOT UNIFORM AND ARE NOT IN CONFORMITY WITH THE JOINT TRAVEL REGULATIONS.

COMMITTEE ACTION NO. 266 OF THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE MILITARY PAY AND ALLOWANCE COMMITTEE PROVIDES THAT WHEN DISCOVERY OF ERROR OF A NONCONTINUING NATURE IS MADE IN THE AUDIT OF MILITARY PAY RECORDS OF MEMBERS NO LONGER ON ACTIVE DUTY COLLECTION ACTION WILL BE WAIVED FOR OVERPAYMENTS IN AMOUNTS OF $10 OR LESS WHEN A NOTICE OF EXCEPTION HAS NOT BEEN ISSUED.

FOR MANY YEARS THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE POLICY AND PROCEDURES MANUAL FOR GUIDANCE OF FEDERAL AGENCIES HAS CONTAINED A PROVISION REQUIRING THE ESTABLISHMENT OF "REALISTIC POINTS OF DIMINISHING RETURNS *** BEYOND WHICH FURTHER COLLECTION EFFORTS BY THE AGENCY ARE NOT JUSTIFIED." 4GAO 55.3. ALSO, SECTION 3(B) OF THE FEDERAL CLAIMS COLLECTION ACT OF 1966, APPROVED JULY 19, 1966, PUBLIC LAW 89-508, 80 STAT. 309, 31 U.S.C. 952(B), AUTHORIZES THE HEADS OF AGENCIES, IN CONFORMITY WITH STANDARDS PROMULGATED JOINTLY BY THE ATTORNEY GENERAL AND THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL, TO TERMINATE OR SUSPEND COLLECTION ACTION ON A DEBT WHERE IT APPEARS THAT THE "COST OF COLLECTING THE CLAIM IS LIKELY TO EXCEED THE AMOUNT OF RECOVERY." THESE PROVISIONS AND THE PROVISIONS OF COMMITTEE ACTION 266, RELATE, OF COURSE, TO AFTER DETERMINED OVERPAYMENTS AND HAVE NO APPLICATION IN CASES WHERE IT IS KNOWN PRIOR TO PAYMENT THAT AN OVERPAYMENT WILL BE MADE.

THE STANDARDS PROMULGATED UNDER THAT ACT PROVIDE "COLLECTION ACTION MAY BE TERMINATED ON A CLAIM WHEN IT IS LIKELY THAT THE COST OF FURTHER COLLECTION ACTION WILL EXCEED THE AMOUNT RECOVERABLE THEREBY." 4 CFR 104.3(C). NEITHER THESE STANDARDS, THE FEDERAL CLAIMS COLLECTION ACT OF 1966, NOR 4 GAO 55.3 CONTEMPLATE THAT NO ACTION AT ALL WILL BE TAKEN TO COLLECT SINCE THEY RELATE TO FURTHER COLLECTION ACTION. MOREOVER, IN VIEW OF THE MANY WAYS AVAILABLE TO ENFORCE COLLECTION OF SMALL DEBTS OWED BY SERVICE MEMBERS AND GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES, THEIR APPLICATION TO SUCH PERSONNEL MAY BE DOUBTFUL IN ANY EVENT.

WE HAVE NO OBJECTION TO UNIFORM REGULATIONS AUTHORIZING THE DISCONTINUANCE OF COLLECTION ACTION WITH RESPECT TO SMALL AMOUNTS OF EXCESS COSTS IN THOSE CASES WHERE THE EXCESS COSTS WERE DETERMINED OR DISCOVERED AFTER SHIPMENT HAD BEEN MADE, COULD NOT HAVE BEEN READILY DETERMINED PRIOR TO SHIPMENT, AND THE COST OF FURTHER COLLECTION PROCEEDING WILL EXCEED THE AMOUNT OF THE DEBT. THIS WOULD BE IN CONFORMITY WITH COMMITTEE ACTION NO. 266, THE FEDERAL CLAIMS COLLECTION ACT OF 1966, AND 4 GAO 55.3, MENTIONED ABOVE. THE WAIVER OF COLLECTION ACTION AS TO EXCESS COSTS IN CONNECTION WITH THE SHIPMENT OF A MEMBER'S HOUSEHOLD EFFECTS WHERE THE EXCESS COST IS KNOWN OR CAN BE READILY DETERMINED PRIOR TO THE SHIPMENT, HOWEVER, IS A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT MATTER. REGULATIONS AUTHORIZING THE WAIVER OF EXCESS COSTS IN THESE CIRCUMSTANCES WOULD HAVE THE EFFECT OF AUTHORIZING DISBURSING OFFICERS TO MAKE A KNOWN OVERPAYMENT, CONCEIVABLY IN SOME INSTANCES IN EXCESS OF THE FUND EXPENDITURE LIMITATION CONTAINED IN THE APPROPRIATION ACTS. WE ARE NOT AWARE OF ANY STATUTORY AUTHORITY WHICH, EVEN BY IMPLICATION, MAY BE VIEWED AS A BASIS FOR SUCH ACTION.

ACCORDINGLY, THE PROPOSED CHANGE TO THE AIR FORCE REGULATION MUST BE DISAPPROVED AND SIMILAR EXISTING REGULATIONS OF THE ARMY AND NAVY SHOULD BE RESCINDED.