Views on H.R. 1025, a Bill To Provide for Equitable Waiver in the Compromise and Collection of Federal Claims

B-197290(RCP): Published: May 5, 1981. Publicly Released: May 5, 1981.

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The views of GAO were requested on a proposed bill that would provide for equitable waiver in the compromise and collection of Federal claims. The purpose of the Waiver Acts is to allow waiver, either in whole or in part, of a claim of the United States against an employee, former employee, or a member or former member of the military service arising out of an erroneous payment of pay or allowances, the collection of which would be against equity and good conscience and not in the best interest of the United States. The present bill raises the ceiling on agency action from $500 to $5000. This proposed amendment would improve the overall economy and efficiency of waiver processing and would result in no additional administrative workload to the agencies. The overall procedures for handling waivers will not be significantly changed because waiver cases will continue to be handled in accordance with standards prescribed by the Comptroller General. Agency performance will continue to be evaluated by GAO during onsite reviews of agency operations, and doubtful cases and appeals will continue to be submitted to the Comptroller General for review. GAO strongly supports the provisions of H.R. 1025. GAO would like to reassert its continuing concern for the specific category of equitable claims which is precluded from consideration for waiver, overpayments of travel and transportation allowances and expenses and relocation allowances. Serious hardship has been caused in many such cases. Employees have been required to make substantial refunds to the Government as a result of circumstances which were not their fault. Many of these claims arise from erroneous agency authorizations which employees rely on in good faith. GAO has decided a number of individual claims where the increasing complexity of the laws relating to travel and transportation entitlements has outdistanced the agencies' ability to regulate these entitlements. No other administrative relief was possible in any of these cases. However, if waiver had been available, it would have been considered and probably granted. At the present time, the only available remedy in such cases is the pursuit of a private relief bill through Congress. Enactment of legislation is recommended to provide a mechanism for relieving individuals who are overpaid travel and transportation allowances and relocation expenses for which waiver consideration is presently precluded.

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