B-168756, FEBRUARY 10, 1970, 49 COMP. GEN. 486

B-168756: Feb 10, 1970

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WHICH WERE INCURRED ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS OF A CONFIDENTIAL NATURE AND APPROVED BY A COAST GUARD OFFICER. THE NATURE OF THE EXPENSES ARE UNKNOWN TO THE CERTIFYING OFFICER. MAY NOT BE CERTIFIED FOR PAYMENT WITHOUT HOLDING THE CERTIFYING OFFICER ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE LEGALITY OF THE PAYMENT. 14 U.S.C. 93(E) CONTAINS NO PROVISION FOR CERTIFICATION OF THE VOUCHERS BY THE COMMANDANT OF THE COAST GUARD WHO IS AUTHORIZED TO MAKE THE INVESTIGATIONS AND. THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR CERTIFYING THE VOUCHERS FOR PAYMENT IS GOVERNED BY THE ACT OF DECEMBER 29. 1970: REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF OCTOBER 2. IT IS EXPLAINED THAT THE VOUCHERS COVER EXPENSES OF INVESTIGATIONS CARRIED OUT UNDER 14 U.S.C. 93(E) WHICH AUTHORIZES THE COMMANDANT TO CONDUCT ANY INVESTIGATIONS OR STUDIES THAT MAY BE OF ASSISTANCE TO THE COAST GUARD IN THE PERFORMANCE OF ANY OF ITS POWERS.

B-168756, FEBRUARY 10, 1970, 49 COMP. GEN. 486

CERTIFYING OFFICERS -- LIABILITY -- CERTIFICATION OF VOUCHERS WITHOUT KNOWLEDGE OF EXPENDITURES VOUCHERS COVERING THE EXPENSES OF INVESTIGATIONS UNDER 14 U.S.C. 93(E), WHICH WERE INCURRED ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS OF A CONFIDENTIAL NATURE AND APPROVED BY A COAST GUARD OFFICER, BUT THE NATURE OF THE EXPENSES ARE UNKNOWN TO THE CERTIFYING OFFICER, MAY NOT BE CERTIFIED FOR PAYMENT WITHOUT HOLDING THE CERTIFYING OFFICER ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE LEGALITY OF THE PAYMENT. 14 U.S.C. 93(E) CONTAINS NO PROVISION FOR CERTIFICATION OF THE VOUCHERS BY THE COMMANDANT OF THE COAST GUARD WHO IS AUTHORIZED TO MAKE THE INVESTIGATIONS AND, THEREFORE, THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR CERTIFYING THE VOUCHERS FOR PAYMENT IS GOVERNED BY THE ACT OF DECEMBER 29, 1941, WHICH FIXES THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF CERTIFYING AND DISBURSING OFFICERS, AND PAYMENT FOR THE COSTS OF THE INVESTIGATIONS MAY ONLY BE MADE IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE 1941 ACT.

TO ALBERT SOLBERG, UNITED STATES COAST GUARD, FEBRUARY 10, 1970:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF OCTOBER 2, 1969, FORWARDED TO US BY THE OFFICE OF THE COMMANDANT OF THE U.S. COAST GUARD BY LETTER OF JANUARY 5, 1970, IN WHICH YOU RAISE SEVERAL QUESTIONS REGARDING THE PROPRIETY OF YOUR CERTIFICATION OF TWO VOUCHERS FORWARDED THEREWITH.

IT IS EXPLAINED THAT THE VOUCHERS COVER EXPENSES OF INVESTIGATIONS CARRIED OUT UNDER 14 U.S.C. 93(E) WHICH AUTHORIZES THE COMMANDANT TO CONDUCT ANY INVESTIGATIONS OR STUDIES THAT MAY BE OF ASSISTANCE TO THE COAST GUARD IN THE PERFORMANCE OF ANY OF ITS POWERS, DUTIES OR FUNCTIONS.

EACH VOUCHER CONTAINS THE STATEMENT THAT "DUE TO THE CONFIDENTIAL NATURE OF THE OFFICIAL BUSINESS PERFORMED EXPENSES INCURRED CANNOT BE PUBLICIZED; HOWEVER, A COMPLETE BREAKDOWN OF THESE EXPENSES IS MAINTAINED IN THE OLI OFFICE AND MAY BE SEEN BY THOSE ON A NEED TO KNOW BASIS." AND EACH VOUCHER APPARENTLY HAS BEEN APPROVED BY AN OFFICER AS PROVIDED IN PARAGRAPH 2DO2004 OF COAST GUARD COMPTROLLER MANUAL.

YOU STATE THAT YOU DO NOT BELIEVE YOU PROPERLY MAY CERTIFY THE VOUCHERS FOR PAYMENT IN THAT YOU ARE NOT CONSIDERED TO BE ONE OF "THOSE ON A NEED TO KNOW BASIS." INASMUCH AS YOU HAVE NOT BEEN PERMITTED TO EXAMINE A BREAKDOWN OF THE EXPENSES COVERED BY THE VOUCHERS, YOU ASK WHETHER AUTHORITY EXISTS FOR YOU TO CERTIFY THE VOUCHERS FOR PAYMENT WITHOUT BEING HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE LEGALITY OF SUCH PAYMENT.

IN CONNECTION WITH SUCH QUESTION YOU REFER TO THE PROVISIONS OF 31 U.S.C. 107 AND OUR DECISION REGARDING SUCH PROVISIONS, 24 COMP. GEN. 544 (1945).

31 U.S.C. 107 IS A RESTATEMENT OF SECTION 291, REVISED STATUTES, AND READS AS FOLLOWS:

WHENEVER ANY SUM OF MONEY HAS BEEN OR SHALL BE ISSUED, FROM THE TREASURY, FOR THE PURPOSES OF INTERCOURSE OR TREATY WITH FOREIGN NATIONS, IN PURSUANCE OF ANY LAW, THE PRESIDENT IS AUTHORIZED TO CAUSE THE SAME TO BE DULY SETTLED ANNUALLY WITH THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE, BY CAUSING THE SAME TO BE ACCOUNTED FOR, SPECIFICALLY, IF THE EXPENDITURE MAY, IN HIS JUDGMENT, BE MADE PUBLIC; AND BY MAKING OR CAUSING THE SECRETARY OF STATE TO MAKE A CERTIFICATE OF THE AMOUNT OF SUCH EXPENDITURE, AS HE MAY THINK IT ADVISABLE NOT TO SPECIFY; AND EVERY SUCH CERTIFICATE SHALL BE DEEMED A SUFFICIENT VOUCHER FOR THE SUM THEREIN EXPRESSED TO HAVE BEEN EXPENDED.

IN THE DECISION REFERRED TO, THE SECRETARY OF STATE ASKED WHETHER, IN VIEW OF THE SPECIAL PROVISIONS OF 31 U.S.C. 107, A VOUCHER EXECUTED BY HIM WOULD BE SUFFICIENT TO PERMIT PAYMENT BY A DISBURSING OFFICER WITHOUT HAVING FIRST BEEN CERTIFIED BY A BONDED CERTIFYING OFFICER. IT WAS HELD IN THE DECISION THAT THE ACT OF DECEMBER 29, 1941, 55 STAT. 875, AN ACT FIXING THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF DISBURSING AND CERTIFYING OFFICERS BEING A GENERAL STATUTE, DID NOT AFFECT THE OPERATION OF 31 U.S.C. 107 AN EARLIER SPECIAL STATUTE.

THE DECISION STATES FURTHER THAT: *** IT WELL MAY BE ASSUMED THAT SOME EXPENDITURES MAY BE AUTHORIZED BY THE SECRETARY OF STATE UNDER CONDITIONS SO CONFIDENTIAL THAT EVEN THE CERTIFYING OFFICER MAY NOT BE INFORMED THEREOF AND, OF COURSE, THAT OFFICER COULD NOT BE REQUIRED TO ACCEPT FINAL RESPONSIBILITY BY CERTIFYING A VOUCHER AS REPRESENTING A LAWFUL PAYMENT WHEN HE IS NOT INFORMED OF THE OBJECT OR PURPOSE OF THE EXPENDITURE. THE DECISION THEN CONCLUDED THAT A VOUCHER CONTAINING A CERTIFICATE EXECUTED BY THE SECRETARY OF STATE WOULD BE PROPER FOR PAYMENT WITHOUT HAVING THE VOUCHER CERTIFIED BY AN AUTHORIZED CERTIFYING OFFICER.

IT MAY BE STATED HERE THAT SIMILAR AUTHORITY FOR THE HEADS OF CERTAIN OTHER DEPARTMENTS TO MAKE CONCLUSIVE CERTIFICATES REGARDING CONFIDENTIAL EXPENDITURES IS CONTAINED IN ANNUAL ACTS MAKING APPROPRIATIONS FOR SUCH DEPARTMENTS. SEE, FOR EXAMPLE, PUBLIC LAW 90 133, APPROVED NOVEMBER 8, 1967, 81 STAT. 418 PROVIDING SUCH AUTHORITY TO THE ATTORNEY GENERAL WITH RESPECT TO FUNDS APPROPRIATED FOR EXPENSES OF THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION AND THE IMMIGRATION AND NATURALIZATION SERVICE.

SECTION 1 OF THE ACT OF DECEMBER 29, 1941, REFERRED TO ABOVE, 31 U.S.C. 82B, PROVIDES THAT DISBURSING OFFICERS UNDER THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH OF THE GOVERNMENT SHALL DISBURSE MONEYS ONLY UPON, AND IN STRICT ACCORDANCE WITH, VOUCHERS CERTIFIED BY THE HEAD OF THE AGENCY CONCERNED OR BY AN OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE DESIGNATED BY HIM TO CERTIFY SUCH VOUCHERS.

SECTION 2 OF THE SAME ACT, 31 U.S.C. 82C, PROVIDES IN PART THAT THE OFFICER OR EMPLOYEE CERTIFYING A VOUCHER SHALL-- (1) BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THE EXISTENCE AND CORRECTNESS OF THE FACTS RECITED IN THE CERTIFICATE OR OTHERWISE STATED ON THE VOUCHER OR ITS SUPPORTING PAPERS AND FOR THE LEGALITY OF THE PROPOSED PAYMENT UNDER THE APPROPRIATION OR FUND INVOLVED; (2) BE REQUIRED TO GIVE BOND TO THE UNITED STATES, WITH GOOD AND SUFFICIENT SURETY APPROVED BY THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY, IN SUCH AMOUNT AS MAY BE DETERMINED BY THE HEAD OF THE DEPARTMENT, AGENCY, OR ESTABLISHMENT CONCERNED, PURSUANT TO STANDARDS PRESCRIBED BY THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY, AND UNDER SUCH CONDITIONS AS MAY BE PRESCRIBED BY THE SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY; AND (3) BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR AND REQUIRED TO MAKE GOOD TO THE UNITED STATES THE AMOUNT OF ANY ILLEGAL, IMPROPER, OR INCORRECT PAYMENT RESULTING FROM ANY FALSE, INACCURATE, OR MISLEADING CERTIFICATE MADE BY HIM, AS WELL AS FOR ANY PAYMENT PROHIBITED BY LAW OR WHICH DID NOT REPRESENT A LEGAL OBLIGATION UNDER THE APPROPRIATION OR FUND INVOLVED: ***

SINCE 14 U.S.C. 93(E) WHICH AUTHORIZES THE COMMANDANT OF THE COAST GUARD TO CONDUCT INVESTIGATIONS, CONTAINS NO PROVISION FOR CERTIFICATION BY THE COMMANDANT SUCH AS THAT CONTAINED IN 31 U.S.C. 107 PROVIDING FOR CERTIFICATION BY THE SECRETARY OF STATE, THE RESPONSIBILITY OF OFFICERS CERTIFYING VOUCHERS COVERING THE PAYMENT FOR COSTS INCURRED IN CONDUCTING SUCH INVESTIGATIONS IS GOVERNED BY THE PROVISIONS OF THE ACT OF DECEMBER 29, 1941.

SUCH BEING THE CASE, AND IN ANSWER TO YOUR QUESTION STATED ABOVE, YOU ARE ADVISED THAT YOU WOULD BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FOR THE LEGALITY OF ANY PAYMENTS MADE PURSUANT TO VOUCHERS CERTIFIED BY YOU EVEN THOUGH THEY MAY HAVE BEEN APPROVED BY THE COMMANDANT OR HIS DESIGNEE. IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTION AS TO ANY PARTICULAR ITEM COVERED ON A VOUCHER BEFORE YOU FOR CERTIFICATION THE VOUCHER MAY, OF COURSE, BE FORWARDED HERE FOR OUR CONSIDERATION.

THE VOUCHERS FORWARDED WITH YOUR LETTER ARE RETURNED.