B-215204, JUN 20, 1984, OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL

B-215204: Jun 20, 1984

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THAT IS CHARGED TO MAJ WAGNER'S ACCOUNT. RELIEF IS GRANTED. BOTH CHECKS WERE IN THE SAME AMOUNT. THE SUBSTITUTE CHECK WAS ISSUED ON THE BASIS OF THE PAYEE'S ALLEGATION THAT SHE HAD NOT RECEIVED THE ORIGINAL CHECK AND HER REQUEST FOR STOP PAYMENT. SEC. 3527(C) TO RELIEVE A DISBURSING OFFICER FROM LIABILITY FOR A DEFICIENCY RESULTING FROM AN IMPROPER PAYMENT UPON DETERMINING "THAT THE PAYMENT WAS NOT THE RESULT OF BAD FAITH OR LACK OF REASONABLE CARE ON THE PART OF THE OFFICIAL.". HAVE RECOGNIZED THAT IN "DUPLICATE CHECK" CASES. THE IMPROPER PAYMENT "IS TOTALLY BEYOND THE RESPONSIBILITY AND CONTROL OF THE AGENCY DISBURSING OFFICER AND IS SOMETHING FOR WHICH HE SHOULD INCUR NO LIABILITY." 62 COMP.GEN. 91.

B-215204, JUN 20, 1984, OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL

PRECIS-UNAVAILABLE

MR. CLYDE E. JEFFCOAT, PRINCIPAL DEPUTY COMMANDER, U.S. ARMY FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING CENTER:

THIS RESPONDS TO YOUR REQUEST THAT WE RELIEVE MAJOR T. WAGNER, FINANCE CORPS, SYMBOL NUMBER 5577, FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING OFFICER, U.S. ARMY FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING CENTER, EUROPE, ATTN: AEUTCF-CPD, APO NEW YORK, AND HIS DEPUTY, SERGEANT FIRST CLASS S. EITUTIS, UNDER 31 U.S.C. SEC. 3527(C) FOR IN IMPROPER PAYMENT OF A $398.61 CHECK PAYABLE TO MS. SHIRLEY L. GOINS, THAT IS CHARGED TO MAJ WAGNER'S ACCOUNT. FOR THE REASONS STATED BELOW, RELIEF IS GRANTED.

THE LOSS RESULTED WHEN THE PAYEE NEGOTIATED BOTH THE ORIGINAL AND A SUBSTITUTE CHECK. BOTH CHECKS WERE IN THE SAME AMOUNT. THE SUBSTITUTE CHECK WAS ISSUED ON THE BASIS OF THE PAYEE'S ALLEGATION THAT SHE HAD NOT RECEIVED THE ORIGINAL CHECK AND HER REQUEST FOR STOP PAYMENT.

THIS OFFICE HAS AUTHORITY UNDER 31 U.S.C. SEC. 3527(C) TO RELIEVE A DISBURSING OFFICER FROM LIABILITY FOR A DEFICIENCY RESULTING FROM AN IMPROPER PAYMENT UPON DETERMINING "THAT THE PAYMENT WAS NOT THE RESULT OF BAD FAITH OR LACK OF REASONABLE CARE ON THE PART OF THE OFFICIAL." HAVE RECOGNIZED THAT IN "DUPLICATE CHECK" CASES, SUCH AS THIS, THE IMPROPER PAYMENT "IS TOTALLY BEYOND THE RESPONSIBILITY AND CONTROL OF THE AGENCY DISBURSING OFFICER AND IS SOMETHING FOR WHICH HE SHOULD INCUR NO LIABILITY." 62 COMP.GEN. 91, 64 (1982). RELIEF IS GRANTED WHEN THE RECORD INDICATES THAT THE DISBURSING OFFICER ACTED WITHIN THE BOUNDS OF DUE CARE AS ESTABLISHED BY THE APPLICABLE REGULATIONS, THAT THERE IS NO EVIDENCE OF BAD FAITH ON THE PART OF THE DISBURSING OFFICER AND THAT A DILIGENT EFFORT WAS MADE TO COLLECT THE OVERPAYMENT. ID.

IT APPEARS THAT THE REQUEST FOR STOP PAYMENT AND THE ISSUANCE OF A SUBSTITUTE CHECK IN THIS CASE WERE WITHIN THE BOUNDS OF DUE CARE AS ESTABLISHED BY ARMY REGULATIONS. SEE AR 37-105, PARAS. 161-165 (1981). THERE WAS NO EVIDENCE OF BAD FAITH ON THE PART OF EITHER OFFICER.

AS WE HAVE NOTED BEFORE, THE SETTLEMENT OF A DISBURSING OFFICER'S ACCOUNT DOES NOT RELIEVE THE AGENCY OF ITS RESPONSIBILITY TO PURSUE COLLECTION ACTION ON THE DEBT CREATED BY THE IMPROPER PAYMENT.

SINCE IT APPEARS THAT AGGRESSIVE COLLECTION ATTEMPTS ARE BEING MADE TO COLLECT THIS DEBT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE FEDERAL CLAIMS COLLECTIONS ACT, AS AMENDED, 31 U.S.C. SEC. 3711 ET SEQ., AND THE PROCEDURES OUTLINED IN OUR DECISION 62 COMP.GEN. 476 (1983), RELIEF IS GRANTED.