B-215279, JUN 20, 1984, OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL

B-215279: Jun 20, 1984

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THAT IS CHARGED TO MAJOR 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 THE ORIGINAL CHECK HAD NOT BEEN RECEIVED AND A REQUEST FOR STOP PAYMENT HAD BEEN MADE. 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 BY THE OFFICIAL.". WE 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.".

B-215279, 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, FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING OFFICER, U.S. ARMY FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING CENTER, EUROPE, AND HIS DEPUTY, SERGEANT FIRST CLASS E. EUTITUS, UNDER 31 U.S.C. SEC. 3527(C) FOR AN IMPROPER PAYMENT OF A $444.38 CHECK PAYABLE TO MR. KEVIN C. DROST, THAT IS CHARGED TO MAJOR 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 THE ORIGINAL CHECK HAD NOT BEEN RECEIVED AND A REQUEST FOR STOP PAYMENT HAD BEEN MADE.

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 BY THE OFFICIAL." WE 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." COMP.GEN. 91, 94 (1982). RELIEF IS GRANTED WHEN THE RECORD INDICATES THAT THE DISBURSING OFFICER ACTED WITHIN THE BOUNDS OF DUE CARE AS ESTABLISHED BY 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.

THE SUBSTITUTE CHECK HERE WAS SIGNED BY THE FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING OFFICER'S DEPUTY WHICH REQUIRES THAT WE RELIEVE THE FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING OFFICER IN HIS SUPERVISORY CAPACITY AS WELL AS THE DEPUTY AS DISBURSING OFFICER. WE HAVE CONCLUDED THAT WHERE A SUBSTITUTE CHECK IS PROPERLY ISSUED THE SUPERVISOR IS NO MORE NEGLIGENT THAN THE DEPUTY WHO ACTUALLY SIGNED THE CHECK, B-212576, ET AL., DECEMBER 2, 1983.

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 37-103, PARAS. 4-161, 4-162 AND 4 -164. THERE WAS NO INDICATION OF BAD FAITH ON THE PART OF THE DISBURSING OFFICERS.

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 COLLECTION 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 AS REQUESTED.