B-215868, OCT 22, 1984, OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL

B-215868: Oct 22, 1984

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ACCOUNTABLE OFFICERS - RELIEF - DUPLICATE CHECKS ISSUED - IMPROPER PAYMENT DIGEST: RELIEF IS GRANTED ARMY DISBURSING OFFICER UNDER 31 U.S.C. 3527(C) FROM LIABILITY FOR IMPROPER PAYMENT RESULTING FROM PAYEE'S NEGOTIATION OF BOTH ORIGINAL AND SUBSTITUTE MILITARY CHECKS. SUBSTITUTE CHECK APPEARS TO HAVE BEEN ISSUED BEFORE ORIGINAL CHECK. THIS PROBABLY WAS THE RESULT OF PARTIAL OBLITERATION OF DATE CAUSING "12" TO APPEAR AS "2". THAT IS CHARGED TO HIS ACCOUNT. RELIEF IS GRANTED. BOTH CHECKS WERE IN THE SAME AMOUNT. THE SUBSTITUTE CHECK WAS ISSUED ON THE BASIS OF THE PAYEE'S ALLEGATION THE HE HAD NOT RECEIVED THE ORIGINAL CHECK AND HIS 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 BY THE OFFICIAL.".

B-215868, OCT 22, 1984, OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL

ACCOUNTABLE OFFICERS - RELIEF - DUPLICATE CHECKS ISSUED - IMPROPER PAYMENT DIGEST: RELIEF IS GRANTED ARMY DISBURSING OFFICER UNDER 31 U.S.C. 3527(C) FROM LIABILITY FOR IMPROPER PAYMENT RESULTING FROM PAYEE'S NEGOTIATION OF BOTH ORIGINAL AND SUBSTITUTE MILITARY CHECKS. SUBSTITUTE CHECK APPEARS TO HAVE BEEN ISSUED BEFORE ORIGINAL CHECK, BUT THIS PROBABLY WAS THE RESULT OF PARTIAL OBLITERATION OF DATE CAUSING "12" TO APPEAR AS "2".

MR. CLYDE E. JEFFCOAT PRINCIPAL DEPUTY COMMANDER U.S. ARMY FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING CENTER INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA 46249

DEAR MR. JEFFCOAT:

THIS RESPONDS TO YOUR REQUEST THAT WE RELIEVE MAJOR S. S. RIDGEWAY, FINANCE CORPS, SYMBOL UNDER 5053, FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING OFFICER, U.S. ARMY SOLDIER SUPPORT CENTER, FORT BENJAMIN HARRISON, INDIANA,, UNDER 31 U.S.C. SEC. 3527(C) FOR AN IMPROPER PAYMENT OF A $522.01 CHECK PAYABLE TO MR. VIRGIL L. FAULCONER, THAT IS CHARGED TO HIS 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 THE HE HAD NOT RECEIVED THE ORIGINAL CHECK AND HIS 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 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 A 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 OVER-PAYMENT. 62 COMP.GEN. 91, ID.

IT APPEARS THAT THE REQUEST FOR STOP PAYMENT AND THE ISSUANCE OF A SUBSTITUTE CHECK IN THIS CASE WERE WITHIN ARMY REGULATIONS. SEE AR 37 103, PARAGRAPHS 4-161, 4-162 AND 4-164. THERE IS NO INDICATION OF BAD FAITH ON THE PART OF THE DISBURSING OFFICER.

THE "ORIGINAL" CHECK IS DATED NOVEMBER 6, 1981, WHILE THE "SUBSTITUTE" CHECK APPEARS TO BE DATED NOVEMBER 2, 1981. ACCORDING TO YOUR REQUEST, NO EXPLANATION COULD BE PROVIDED FOR THIS DISCREPANCY BY THE FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING OFFICER. HOWEVER, WE HAVE BEEN INFORMED THAT A FURTHER INVESTIGATION REVEALED THAT THIS SUBSTITUTE CHECK WAS WRITTEN AT THE SAME TIME A GROUP OF OTHER SUBSTITUTE CHECKS ISSUED ON NOVEMBER 12, 1981 WERE PREPARED. AN EXAMINATION OF THE CHECK INDICATES THAT A STAMP OF SOME KIND MAY HAVE OBSCURED THE NUMERAL "1" ON THE DATE.

ON THE BASIS IF THIS INFORMATION AND THE OTHERWISE UNEXPLAINED SEQUENCE OF THE CHECK DATES, WE THINK IT REASONABLE TO CONCLUDE THAT THE SUBSTITUTE CHECK WAS ISSUED ON NOVEMBER 12. THIS DATE WOULD PLACE THE CHECK WELL WITHIN THE TIME WITHIN WHICH MAJOR RIDGEWAY WAS AUTHORIZED TO ISSUE A SUBSTITUTE CHECK.

SINCE IT APPEARS THAT AGGRESSIVE COLLECTION ATTEMPTS ARE BEING MADE TO COLLECT THIS DEBT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE FEDERAL CLAIMS COLLECTION ACT, AS AMENDED, 37 U.S.C. SEC. 3711, ET SEQ., AND THE PROCEDURES OUTLINED IN OUR DECISION, 62 COMP.GEN. 476 (1983), RELIEF IS GRANTED.