B-222732, Jun 13, 1988, 67 Comp.Gen. 457

B-222732: Jun 13, 1988

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Are not subject to resolution under the Department of State's grievance procedures since they fall outside its jurisdiction as specified by law. Where an improper certification of payments of pay was intentionally made by an authorized certifying officer. 699 was recovered after Department of State (Department) improperly reduced the indebtedness following employee's filing of grievance under Foreign Service statutory grievance procedures. Administrative acquiescence by certain Department of State (Department) officials is not a basis for relieving authorized certifying official of personal liability for intentionally certifying improper payments resulting in loss to the United States. The Department officials notified of his actions were not in the certifying officer's direct chain of command and may not have had authority to reverse his action or had knowledge that it was improper. 4.

B-222732, Jun 13, 1988, 67 Comp.Gen. 457

Appropriations/Financial Management - Accountable Officers - Certifying Officers - Liability - Waiver - Statutory Regulations l. Questions concerning (1) the financial liability of an authorized certifying official arising out of the performance of his official duties, (2) the relief of a certifying official's financial liability as authorized by law and (3) the compromise of any debt found due and owing to the United States arising out of the failure of an authorized certifying official to properly perform his duties, are not subject to resolution under the Department of State's grievance procedures since they fall outside its jurisdiction as specified by law. Appropriations/Financial Management - Accountable Officers - Liability - Debt Collection 2. Where an improper certification of payments of pay was intentionally made by an authorized certifying officer, resulting in overpayments of pay to 25 Foreign Service National employees in the amount of $17,899.89, and only $6,699 was recovered after Department of State (Department) improperly reduced the indebtedness following employee's filing of grievance under Foreign Service statutory grievance procedures, the Department must attempt to recover uncollected balance of debt. Appropriations/Financial Management - Accountable Officers - Disbursing Officers - Relief - Illegal/Improper Payments - Overpayments 3. Administrative acquiescence by certain Department of State (Department) officials is not a basis for relieving authorized certifying official of personal liability for intentionally certifying improper payments resulting in loss to the United States. The Department officials notified of his actions were not in the certifying officer's direct chain of command and may not have had authority to reverse his action or had knowledge that it was improper. 4. Payroll Branch Chief who certified voucher (SF-1166 Voucher and Schedule of Payments) based upon memorandum voucher certified by her supervisor (an authorized certifying official) is justified in relying upon the information certified by her supervisor and is not responsible for the correctness of the facts set forth in supervisor's certification.

Mr. Roger B. Feldman, Comptroller, Department of State:

This is in response to your request for our opinion regarding the proper treatment of an indebtedness arising in favor of the United States because of an improper certification of payments of pay made by an authorized certifying official of the Department of State (Department). The indebtedness, resulting from an unauthorized upgrading and consequent overpayments of salary to 25 Foreign Service National (FSN) employees, amounted to $17,899.89. Steps were initiated to collect this indebtedness by setoff against the certifying official's lump-sum leave payment due upon his retirement.

After the certifying official challenged the impending setoff by filing a complaint under the Department's grievance procedures, the Department set off only $6,699, and now proposes "writing off" the unrecovered balance of $11,200.89. The reduction was apparently based upon the fact that the certifying official's superiors knew of the unauthorized salary payments and had authority to stop them, but failed to do so for some period of time.

For the reasons given below, it is our opinion that questions concerning the financial liability of an authorized certifying official arising out of the performance of his official duties are not subject to resolution under the Department's grievance procedures since they fall outside its scope as specified by law. The same applies to questions concerning relief of a certifying official's financial liability as authorized by law and the compromise of any debt found due and owing the United States arising out of his failure to properly perform his duties. As will be explained in more detail below, these are not matters which are subject to the Secretary's control; they do not involve matters affecting the negotiable terms and conditions of employment; and they involve matters which are subject to independent statutory hearing procedures.

We also find that the 25 FSN employees are indebted to the United States for the full amount of the overpayments each received. The Department is required to attempt to collect the amounts due from the employees involved unless the debts are waived pursuant to 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5584 or collection is terminated in accordance with the Federal Claims Collection Act standards, found at 4 C.F.R. Parts 101-105.

Partly in response to an informal request from an official in the Department's Inspector General's Office, and partly because we recognize that the submission raised several matters which require analysis and comment in order to prevent recurrence of this situation, we have provided a rather detailed response in order to assist the Department in overcoming some deficiencies noted as a result of our review.

BACKGROUND

On December 2, 1982, Mr. Robert Gingles, Director of the Regional Administrative Management Center (RAMC) in Paris, France, who is also an authorized certifying official, sent the following memorandum certification to Mary LeBlanc, RAMC Payroll Branch Chief, a subordinate of Mr. Gingles and also a certifying official:

"I have just been informed that the attached upgradings, based on new FSN Standards, have been approved. Please process with an effective date of November 28, 1982 so that the employees will receive the increases in their December 23 paychecks.

"This document will serve as a Certified Voucher for the establishment of the new rates. Personnel Actions will be received in due course.

"Pursuant to Authority Vested in me, I certify that this voucher is correct and proper for payment.

December 2, 1982

(signature)

Robert L. Gingles

Authorized Certifying Officer"

Since the RAMC Paris did not normally accept memorandum vouchers from posts it serviced, the Payroll Branch Chief discussed this matter with Mr. Gingles who, she states, stressed the propriety of his certification. /1/ She also states that Mr. Gingles told her that the requisite personnel actions would be forthcoming and implied that the increases should not await the documentation. Another round of discussions took place, and once again Mr. Gingles directed the processing of the payments. Based upon this, Ms. LeBlanc certified the voucher (SF 1166) for payment, authorizing payment of the 25 FSN employees at the new rates.

At the time he was directing the Payroll Branch Chief to process these payments at the new rates and certifying to their propriety, it appears that Mr. Gingles was aware of the fact that the requisite procedures necessary to accomplish what were in effect, promotions, and to authorize the salary increases, had not been completed. /2/ By memorandum dated January 27, 1983, to Mr. John Sinozich of Personnel in the Paris Embassy, Mr. Gingles stated:

"Enclosed are the job descriptions for the Disbursing Unit of RAMC. we heard from Washington in November 1982 that these jobs were reclassified we notified payroll effective PP24 of the changes to the employees grades as follows. ..."

The information provided also shows that on March 2, 1983, Mr. Gingles notified Administrative Counselor Emmons of his actions and his reason for taking them. Mr. Emmons was employed by the Embassy in Paris and was not in Mr. Gingles' chain of command. Additionally, none of the persons Mr. Emmons spoke to concerning this matter appeared to be supervisors of Mr. Gingles. /3/

On April 11, 1983, Mr. Gingles notified the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Security of his actions and his reason for raising the pay of the 25 FSN employees. On the same day, the Regional Security Officer at the Paris Embassy notified the Department's Inspector General's office. The IG's office investigated this matter, following which it contacted the Comptroller's office and the Director General of the Foreign Service-Director of Personnel's office on April 28, 1983, asking them what action they intended to take. In response to the IG's inquiry, they notified Mr. Gingles on May 10, 1983, to direct the Payroll Branch Chief to revert all salaries increased as a result of Mr. Gingles' prior instruction to the grade and salary in effect on November 28, 1982.

Thereafter, the Department's Committee of Inquiry into Fiscal Irregularities convened on September 19, 1983, and determined that the unauthorized upgrading of the 25 FSN employees at the Paris RAMC resulted in salary overpayments between November 28, 1982, and May 10, 1983, in the amount of $17,899.89. The Committee determined that the fiscal irregularity in this amount was a personal liability solely of Mr. Gingles, and that the Payroll Branch Chief was not responsible for the loss. These findings were approved by the Comptroller on November 2, 1983.

In response to a specific inquiry from the Comptroller prior to his approving these findings, the Committee also considered whether the overpayments should be recovered from the 25 benefiting employees. The Committee determined that this would be inappropriate stating:

"The FSNs were not responsible for the overpayments, nor did they have any reason to believe they were not entitled to the increased payments at the time they received them." /4/

The Committee Chairperson then notified Mr. Gingles of the decision and requested that he make full restitution of the amount of the overpayment. /5/ Mr. Gingles contested the Committee's findings and subsequently filed a grievance under chapter 11 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980, 22 U.S.C. Secs. 4131-4140, as implemented by Vol. 3 of the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM), Personnel, ch. 660 and 22 C.F.R. ch. IX. The Foreign Service Grievance Board granted interim relief on January 30, 1984, by ordering suspension of collection action against Mr. Gingles until the Board had time to make a decision. However, the grievance was then resolved administratively without a decision by the Board, through an agreement negotiated between Mr. Gingles and then Deputy Assistant Secretary for Personnel, Mr. Steigman, signed by his successor, Mr. Cohen, holding Mr. Gingles accountable for a loss in the amount of $6,699. This amount was then set off against the lump-sum payment for unused annual leave due Mr. Gingles upon his retirement. We have been provided nothing that would indicate the basis for collecting this lesser amount other than the statement in a memorandum dated October 18, 1985, from Deputy Assistant Secretary Cohen to the Comptroller which states:

"Mr. Gingles' superiors knew for months of the salary payments, and had the authority to stop them."

Apparently, the date selected for cutoff of Mr. Gingles' liability was January 27, 1983, the date Mr. Gingles provided Mr. Sinozich in Personnel at the Paris Embassy job descriptions for the Disbursing Unit of RAMC and indicated that the jobs were reclassified, based upon notification received from Washington in November 1982.

Because there is still an outstanding liability in the account of Mr. Gingles to the extent of the unrecovered portion of his total liability, the Comptroller asks whether he may now write off this amount. He is also concerned with whether failure to take action by superiors affords a basis for providing relief from liability for authorized certifying officers.

DISCUSSION

1. Relationship of Grievance Procedures to Liability and Relief of Certifying Officers

With respect to decisions of the Foreign Service Grievance Board, we have held that:

"... when the Foreign Service Grievance Board has rendered a final determination in an individual case, over which it has jurisdiction, this Office is without jurisdiction to reverse, modify or otherwise review that ruling, even though we may disagree with the Board's conclusion. The forum for such review, if timely brought, is in one of the District Courts of the United States." /6/

While this matter was not resolved by a decision of the Board but instead, by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Personnel, chs. 10 and 11 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 and their implementing regulations do provide for the resolution of grievances prior to reaching the Board whenever possible. /7/ Thus, the official delegated responsibility by the Department to resolve grievances prior to a Board determination /8/ is authorized to act in appropriate cases to resolve the grievance, subject to an appeal to the Board.

The key provision relating to the jurisdiction of the Board (and the related jurisdiction of the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Personnel) is section 1101 of the 1980 Act, 22 U.S.C. Sec. 4131, which defines what constitutes a grievance over which the Board exercises either decision- making or recommendatory authority. It provides that:

"(a)(1) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, for purposes of this subchapter, the term 'grievance' means any act, omission, or condition subject to the control of the Secretary which is alleged to deprive a member of the Service who is a citizen of the United States of a right or benefit authorized by law or regulation or which is otherwise a source of concern or dissatisfaction to the member, including--

"(B) other alleged violation, misinterpretation, or misapplication of applicable laws, regulations, or published policy affecting the terms and conditions of the employment or career status of the member;

"(G) alleged denial of an allowance, premium pay, or other financial benefit to which the member claims entitlement under applicable laws or regulations.

"(b) For purposes of this subchapter, the term 'grievance' does not include--

"(4) any complaint or appeal where a specific statutory hearing procedure exists, ..."

A certifying official is personally responsible for the accuracy of the information or computations stated in or supporting a payment voucher as well as the legality of the payment from the appropriation or fund involved. A certifying official who authorizes a payment that is improper, incorrect or illegal, is jointly and severally liable with the person or persons who benefited from the improper payment to repay to the United States the amount of the loss incurred as a result of the illegal, improper or incorrect payment. 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3528(a).

Section 3528(b) also vests exclusive authority for relief from this liability under specified criteria in the Comptroller General of the United States. /9/ In this connection, it should be noted that agency authority under 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3711(a) to compromise and settle debts up to $20,000 owed to the United States does not include debts arising from exceptions raised by GAO (or under our standards) in the accounts of accountable officers. 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3711(b). Unlike cases involving physical losses or deficiencies, /10/ we have not delegated authority to agencies to grant relief from liability for losses arising under 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3528, regardless of the amount involved. In view of these statutory provisions, it is clear that questions of accountability of authorized certifying officials (or any accountable officer) and the recovery of indebtedness arising in favor of the United States for losses incurred as a result of the officer's failure to properly perform his functions are matters that are not "subject to the control of the Secretary of State." 22 U.S.C. Sec. 4131(a)(1); and are subject to an existing "specific statutory hearing procedure." 22 U.S.C. Sec. 4131(b)(4).

Thus, questions about a certifying official's liability are excluded from the scope of grievances as defined by 22 U.S.C. Sec. 4131(a) over which the Board or departmental official may exercise decision-making authority. Conditions of Employment

As indicated earlier, the Department has the obligation to negotiate in good faith with the exclusive representative with respect to conditions of employment, and to execute a collective bargaining agreement embodying agreed upon terms. /11/ These terms may include procedures to resolve complaints for breach of the collective bargaining agreement with provision for appeal to the Board from adverse administrative determinations. /12/ Section 1002 of the 1980 Act defines "conditions of employment" subject to collective bargaining under ch. 10 to mean:

"... personnel policies, practices, and matters whether established by regulation or otherwise, affecting working conditions, but does not include policies, practices and matters ... (C) to the extent such matters are specifically provided for by Federal statute. ..." 22 U.S.C. Sec. 4102(5) (1982).

This definition is virtually identical to that set forth in 5 U.S.C. Sec. 7103(a)(14)(C) concerning negotiated grievance procedures applicable to employees of the civil service. Both this Office and the Federal Labor Relations Authority have held that the exception from "conditions of employment" of matters "specifically provided for by Federal statute" precludes subjecting accountable officer liability and relief to collective bargaining and handling under negotiated grievance procedures. /13/ Although the definition in 22 U.S.C. Sec. 4102(5)(c) expressly applies only to ch. 10 of the 1980 Act, we think that it also describes the "conditions of employment" as used in 22 U.S.C. Sec. 4231(a)(1)(B) over which the Board may exercise its authority to hear "grievances," since there is an obvious interrelationship between chs. 10 and 11 of the 1980 Act. Thus, in our opinion, matters "specifically provided for by Federal statute" are excluded under 22 U.S.C. Sec. 4131(a) (1)(B).

Denial of Financial Benefit

Under 22 U.S.C. Sec. 4131(a)(1)(G), the Board in a grievance proceeding may determine whether an employee is entitled to a lump-sum leave payment upon retirement under the laws and regulations applicable to employees of the Department, and may address the amount of that payment. It does not have the authority to determine the extent, if any, of the liability of a certifying official, to relieve the certifying official, to compromise a claim against the certifying official, or to review setoffs against the lump-sum leave payment, since these are outside the scope of the Board's authority under applicable provisions of law.

Statutory Hearing Procedures

As discussed above, the Congress has vested the exclusive statutory authority to relieve certifying officials under certain strict criteria in this Office. This relief process is generally based upon the written record, since rarely are elements of credibility or veracity at issue in these cases. Furthermore, the law provides for judicial review at the request of the individual when collection action is initiated under 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5512. Thus, issues of accountable officer liability and relief are excluded from the Foreign Service grievance procedures by virtue of 22 U.S.C. Sec. 4131(b)(4).

In sum, it is our opinion that the attempt to resolve or reduce Mr. Gingles' liability through the grievance mechanism was unauthorized.

2. Collection from FSN Employees

The salary overpayments to the 25 FSN employees constituted debts owed to the United States. The Department had a responsibility to attempt to recover those overpayments (31 U.S.C. Sec. 3711(a)(1), 4 C.F.R. Sec. 102.1(a)). Upon notification of their indebtedness, the 25 FSN employees could (1) repay the amounts owed, (2) could contest the indebtedness, or (3) could request waiver under 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5584. As discussed below, Mr. Gingles' indebtedness would be reduced either by the amount of any recovery from the 25 FSN employees or by the amount of any waiver granted under section 5584.

We understand that collection from the 25 FSN employees may not be practical. For example, local law may preclude such recovery under these circumstances, or the employees may be financially unable to repay the debt from limited resources in a reasonable period of time. In this situation (as well as others set forth in the Federal Claims Collection Act Standards, 4 C.F.R. Parts 101-105), the Department may wish to suspend or terminate collection action against the 25 FSN employees. However, this determination in no way changes the Department's responsibility to seek recovery from Mr. Gingles of the full remaining unpaid balance of the indebtedness.

Waiver of Overpayments

The law authorizes the Comptroller General and the heads of executive agencies, in accordance with standards promulgated by the Comptroller General, to waive claims of the government for erroneous payments of pay and allowances and certain other items when there is no indication of fraud, misrepresentation, fault, or lack of good faith on the part of the employee receiving the erroneous payment or any other person interested in obtaining a waiver of the claim. /14/ Heads of executive agencies (including the Secretary of State) are authorized to waive claims in amounts not exceeding $500, whereas only the Comptroller General may waive claims in excess of that amount. /15/ We are required to give full credit in the accounts of accountable officers when auditing and settling their accounts for any amounts with respect to which collection by the United States is waived. /16/

3. Administrative Acquiescence

As mentioned earlier, the apparent reason Mr. Gingles was not charged with the full amount of the overpayments was that his superiors allegedly knew for months of the payments and could have stopped them. We do not think this fact should constitute a basis for relief under 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3528. /17/ We question the soundness of any determination that would alleviate a certifying official's liability merely because he informed some other agency official of an action he knew was improper at the time he took it.

As we indicated earlier, Mr. Gingles did not notify his immediate supervisor nor did he notify anyone in the Comptroller's office (which appears to exercise some authority over certifying officials) although he did notify various other Department officials. It is not clear to what extent any of these other officials were responsible for acting on this matter or whether they unreasonably delayed in acting or in referring the matter to those who had the authority to act. In fact, it appears that once the appropriate department officials became aware of Mr. Gingle's actions, they instituted steps to correct them by ordering him to rescind his prior unauthorized promotion of his employees.

Fundamentally, this does not appear to be a case of an innocent mistake by a certifying official that could be corrected only by other officials possessing additional facts the certifying official did not have. Instead it appears that at all times, the certifying official knew his action was improper and had the requisite power and authority- first to prevent its occurrence and thereafter to bring a halt to its continuation. /18/ Therefore, we do not think this is a situation where administrative acquiescence should even be considered as a possible basis for partial or total relief.

4. Certification Responsibility

As discussed earlier, although Mary LeBlanc, RAMC Payroll Branch Chief, actually certified the vouchers (SF-1166 Voucher and Schedule of Payments) which resulted in the overpayments to the 25 FSN employees, the Committee determined that Mr. Gingles was solely responsible for the loss. Although the passage of time has now made it impossible for us to impose liability on the Payroll Chief should we conclude that she was the official responsible for the loss resulting from her certification of the payroll vouchers, /19/ we nonetheless must review her role since it has an impact on the liability of Mr. Gingles. For example, were Ms. LeBlanc the sole party responsible for the loss, Mr. Gingles might have the basis for a claim for the amount set off against his lump-sum retirement because, as discussed earlier, the Board had no authority to act on matters involving accountable officers' liability and thus any amount collected by way of setoff would have been improper.

Under 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3528, the certifying official who signs the voucher is responsible for the existence and correctness of the facts cited in the certificate, voucher, or supporting papers and the legality of the proposed payment, and is liable for the amount of any illegal, improper, or incorrect payment resulting from any false, inaccurate, or misleading certificate made by him, as well as for any payment prohibited by law or which did not represent a legal obligation. We have held that once there has been certification by an authorized official, later administrative processing of vouchers does not constitute certification for purposes of liability under 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3528. 23 Comp.Gen. 953 (1944); 21 Comp. Gen. 841 (1942). We observed in a letter dated March 30, 1960, to the Secretary of the Treasury, B-142380:

"Where the certifying officer who certifies the voucher and schedule of payments is different from the certifying officer who certifies the basic vouchers, we have consistently applied the principle that the certifying officer who certifies the basic vouchers is responsible for the correctness of such vouchers and the certifying officer who certifies the voucher-schedule is responsible only for errors made in the preparation of the voucher-schedule. ..."

Thus, in situations involving successive certifications, the official making the second certification is entitled to rely upon the first certification for the purpose of determining liability and the second official is to be held accountable only for the correctness of the voucher schedule he certifies. We have also held that to the extent that the second certifying official might question the propriety of the previous certification, that official should in the interest of good administration bring the matter to the attention of the first certifying official. Comp.Gen. 388, 390 (1975).

In the present situation, Mary LeBlanc certified the voucher schedule based upon the memorandum certification of her supervisor who, she indicates, assured her that it was proper. Since she twice questioned the propriety of the first certification with Mr. Gingles before finally certifying the voucher, we think that she was entitled to rely upon his certification in this situation. Therefore, we agree with the Committee that Ms. LeBlanc was not liable for the loss. However, in the future, we recommend that in order to avoid confusion over this issue, certifying officials be directed not to accept memorandum certifications such as this. Should a question arise because a memorandum certification is executed, the second official should refuse to certify the voucher schedule, and instead, have it certified by the official making the first certification in memorandum format.

5. Conclusion

Since matters of certifying official liability are excluded from the scope of the Foreign Service grievance procedures, the "settlement" under this authority was unauthorized, and Mr. Gingles remains indebted to the United States for the unrecovered balance of $11,200.89. To the extent possible, the indebtedness should be recovered from the 25 FSN employees who received salary overpayments. If a waiver is requested and granted, Mr. Gingles' indebtedness should be reduced by the amount of the waiver. However, if collection action against the 25 FSN employees is suspended or terminated in accordance with the Federal Claims Collection Standards, recovery of the indebtedness from Mr. Gingles should still be pursued. Should the debt prove uncollectible and collection action against Mr. Gingles also be terminated, then the debt may be adjusted and written off in accordance with the procedures set forth in 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3530.

/1/ In her affidavit to Charles Kinn of the Inspector General's office dated September 29, 1983, Mary LeBlanc stated concerning Mr. Gingles voucher that:

"This Memorandum Voucher was unusual. RAMC's Payroll Branch does not, cannot and will not accept such memoranda from the posts we service."

/2/ At the time of his action, position classification standards involving the affected FSN employees were under review. However, they were not approved for implementation until June 12, 1983. It was Mr. Gingles' expressed dissatisfaction with delays surrounding the Departmenrt's approval process that apparently motivated his action.

/3/ Nothing in the submission indicates if and when Mr. Gingles' immediate supervisor, the Information Systems Officer with the Bureau of Administration, was informed about these actions by Mr. Gingles or was contacted by anyone else in order to institute corrective action before the improper payments were made.

/4/ Memorandum dated October 20, 1983, from Elizabeth A. Gibbons, Chairperson of the Committee to Roger Feldman, Comptroller.

/5/ Memorandum dated November 3, 1983, from Elizabeth A. Gibbons, Chairperson of the Committee to Robert Gingles.

/6/ Pierre L. Sales-- Foreign Service Grievance Board-- GAO Jurisdiction, 62 Comp.Gen. 671, 672-73 (1982). See also Perry L. Peterson, B-207676, May 7, 1984.

/7/ 22 U.S.C. Secs. 4113(d), 4114(a) and 4134; 22 C.F.R. Sec. 903.1; 3 FAM 663.3, 664.1-664.4.

/8/ At the agency level, the official delegated responsibility for resolving grievances within the Department is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Personnel. 3 FAM 664.2.

/9/ See 55 Comp.Gen. 297 (1975) for a discussion of the liability of a certifying official and the basis for granting relief under the statute.

/10/ See 54 Comp.Gen. 112 (1974) and 59 Comp.Gen. 113 (1979). See also 7 GAO Sec. 28.14(3)(a).

/11/ Section 1013(e) of the 1980 Act, 22 U.S.C. Sec. 4113(e) (1982).

/12/ Section 1014(a) of the 1980 Act, 22 U.S.C. Sec. 4114(c) (1982).

/13/ Forest Service-- Grievance Procedure for Accountable Officers, B-213804, Aug. 13, 1985; National Treasury Employee Union and Internal Revenue Service, 14 FLRA No. 15, Mar. 16, 1984.

/14/ 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5584(a) and (b) (1982) as amended by Pub.L. No. 99-224, Sec 1(a), Dec. 28, 1985, 99 Stat. 1741.

/15/ 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5584(a)(2)(A) and 4 C.F.R. Sec. 91.4(b).

/16/ 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5584(d). 49 Comp.Gen. 571 (1970). Fault on the part of the certifying official does not affect the waiver decision. We have held that "other person having an interest in obtaining a waiver of the claim" means someone more closely associated or connected with the recipient than the accountable officer for purpose of precluding waiver under 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5584(b)(1) since otherwise, it would serve to render the waiver provision useless for all practical purposes. B-177841-O.M., Oct. 23, 1973.

/17/ This discussion would not apply, of course, to the extent credit is granted in the certifying officer's account as a result of a waiver being granted to any or all of the 25 FSN employees under 5 U.S.C. Sec. 5584.

/18/See B-223372, Nov. 12, 1986.

/19/ 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3526(c), B-181466, Nov. 19, 1974; B-199542, Nov. 7, 1980; B-206591, Apr. 27, 1982.