B-198308, MAR 9, 1981

B-198308: Mar 9, 1981

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THUS SHE IS NO LONGER LIABLE FOR THE LOSS. SEC. 82A-1 THAT THE LOSS WAS SUSTAINED WHILE MS. FONTANELLA WAS PERFORMING HER OFFICIAL DUTIES. OUR AUTHORITY TO SETTLE ACCOUNTS OF ACCOUNTABLE OFFICERS IS LIMITED TO A 3-YEAR PERIOD BY 31 U.S.C. SEC. 82I (EXCEPT WHEN A LOSS IS DUE TO AN ACCOUNTABLE OFFICER'S FRAUD OR CRIMINALITY OR DURING WARTIME). WHICH WAS ENACTED WHEN ALL ACCOUNTS WERE PHYSICALLY TRANSMITTED TO THIS OFFICE FOR SETTLEMENT. ACCOUNTS ARE NOW RETAINED BY THE VARIOUS AGENCIES WHERE THEY ARE SUBJECT TO OUR AUDIT AND SETTLEMENT. WHERE ACCOUNTS ARE RETAINED AT THE SITE. WE ALSO CONSIDER ACCOUNTS TO BE SETTLED AT THE EXPIRATION OF THE 3-YEAR PERIOD EVEN WHERE NO FORMAL AUDIT IS CONDUCTED OR SETTLEMENT CERTIFICATE ISSUED.

B-198308, MAR 9, 1981

OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL

THOMAS WEIR PAUKEN:

THIS RESPONDS TO A REQUEST FROM MR. LEO E. PALENSKY, DIRECTOR OF THE ACCOUNTING DIVISION, ACTION, FOR RELIEF OF IMPREST FUND CASHIER MAUREEN FONTANELLA FROM LIABILITY IN THE AMOUNT OF $500, FOR A LOSS THAT OCCURRED IN JULY 1973. FOR THE REASONS DISCUSSED BELOW, WE CONCLUDE THAT MS. FONTANELLA'S ACCOUNT FOR 1973 MUST BE REGARDED AS SETTLED, AND, THUS SHE IS NO LONGER LIABLE FOR THE LOSS.

THE INFORMATION SUBMITTED INDICATES THAT ON JULY 20, 1973, MS. FONTANELLA, THEN EMPLOYED IN ACTION'S BOSTON REGIONAL OFFICE, FOUND EMPTY THE SAFE IN WHICH SHE KEPT THE IMPREST FUND IN QUESTION. THE FUND TOTALLED $500, CONSISTING OF $50-$60 IN CASH, WITH THE REMAINDER IN RECEIPTS. AN INVESTIGATION AT THE TIME BY THE FEDERAL PROTECTIVE SERVICE OF THE GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION DID NOT INDICATE ANY FRAUD OR CRIMINALITY ON THE PART OF MS. FONTANELLA.

ACTION CONCLUDED PURSUANT TO 31 U.S.C. SEC. 82A-1 THAT THE LOSS WAS SUSTAINED WHILE MS. FONTANELLA WAS PERFORMING HER OFFICIAL DUTIES, AND WITHOUT NEGLIGENCE ON HER PART. ACTION ALSO ADVISES US THAT MS. FONTANELLA HAD COMPLIED WITH THE PRESCRIBED AGENCY PROCEDURES FOR SAFEGUARDING IMPREST FUNDS. ACTION ORDER 2325.1, PARA. 17.

OUR AUTHORITY TO SETTLE ACCOUNTS OF ACCOUNTABLE OFFICERS IS LIMITED TO A 3-YEAR PERIOD BY 31 U.S.C. SEC. 82I (EXCEPT WHEN A LOSS IS DUE TO AN ACCOUNTABLE OFFICER'S FRAUD OR CRIMINALITY OR DURING WARTIME). THAT STATUTE, WHICH WAS ENACTED WHEN ALL ACCOUNTS WERE PHYSICALLY TRANSMITTED TO THIS OFFICE FOR SETTLEMENT, PROVIDES THAT SUCH ACCOUNTS SHALL BE SETTLED WITHIN 3 YEARS "FROM THE DATE OF THE RECEIPT OF THE ACCOUNT BY THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE." AS A RESULT OF CHANGES IN AUDIT METHODS, HOWEVER, ACCOUNTS ARE NOW RETAINED BY THE VARIOUS AGENCIES WHERE THEY ARE SUBJECT TO OUR AUDIT AND SETTLEMENT. TO REFLECT THIS CHANGE, WE GENERALLY CONSIDER THE DATE OF RECEIPT BY THE AGENCY OF SUBSTANTIALLY COMPLETE ACCOUNTS OR, WHERE ACCOUNTS ARE RETAINED AT THE SITE, THE END OF THE PERIOD COVERED BY THE ACCOUNT, AS THE DATE FROM WHICH THE 3-YEAR PERIOD ESTABLISHED BY 31 U.S.C. SEC. 82I BEGINS TO RUN. 3 GAO POLICY AND PROCEDURES MANUAL SEC. 69.1, N.1; SEE B-181466, JULY 10, 1974. CONSISTENT WITH THE ACCOUNTING AND AUDITING ACT OF 1950, 31 U.S.C. SECS. 65 ET. SEQ., WE ALSO CONSIDER ACCOUNTS TO BE SETTLED AT THE EXPIRATION OF THE 3-YEAR PERIOD EVEN WHERE NO FORMAL AUDIT IS CONDUCTED OR SETTLEMENT CERTIFICATE ISSUED.

THE 3-YEAR PERIOD FOR SETTLEMENT OF ACCOUNTS BY GAO ALSO OPERATES AS A LIMITATION ON THE ACCOUNTABLE OFFICER RELIEF STATUTES. THUS, AN ACCOUNTABLE OFFICER IS NOT LIABLE FOR A LOSS, FOR EXAMPLE UNDER 31 U.S.C. SEC. 82A-1, IF THE GOVERNMENT DOES NOT RAISE A CHARGE AGAINST THE ACCOUNT REFLECTING THE LOSS WITHIN THE 3-YEAR STATUTORY PERIOD. B-199542, NOVEMBER 7, 1980; B-181466, SUPRA.

IN THIS CASE, ACTION REPORTED THE $500 LOSS TO US, AS REQUIRED BY 7 GAO SEC. 28.14, IN AUGUST 1973, APPROXIMATELY 1 MONTH AFTER THE LOSS OCCURRED, ALTHOUGH THE RELIEF REQUEST WAS NOT SUBMITTED UNTIL NEARLY 7 YEARS LATER. HOWEVER, NEITHER IN 1973 NOR AT ANY SUBSEQUENT TIME DID THIS OFFICE RAISE A CHARGE AGAINST THE ACCOUNT REFLECTING THE LOSS. THUS, MS. FONTANELLA'S ACCOUNT FOR 1973 MUST BE REGARDED AS SETTLED SINCE THE 3-YEAR PERIOD PROVIDED BY 31 U.S.C. SEC. 82I FOR ACCOUNT SETTLEMENT HAS EXPIRED, AND, ACCORDINGLY, SHE IS NO LONGER LIABLE FOR THE LOSS.