B-226752, MAY 1, 1987, OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL

B-226752: May 1, 1987

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APPROPRIATIONS/FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT - ACCOUNTABLE OFFICERS - DISBURSING OFFICERS - RELIEF - ILLEGAL/IMPROPER PAYMENTS - SUBSTITUTE CHECKS DIGEST: RELIEF IS GRANTED ARMY DISBURSING OFFICIALS UNDER 31 U.S.C. PROPER PROCEDURES WERE FOLLOWED IN THE ISSUANCE OF THE RECERTIFIED CHECK. THERE WAS NO INDICATION OF BAD FAITH ON THE PART OF THE DISBURSING OFFICIALS AND SUBSEQUENT COLLECTION ATTEMPTS ARE BEING PURSUED. WE WILL NO LONGER GRANT RELIEF IF ARMY DELAYS MORE THAN 3 MONTHS IN FORWARDING THE DEBT TO YOUR COLLECTION DIVISION. WE HAVE ALSO INCLUDED MR. RELIEF IS GRANTED TO BOTH AGENTS. BOTH CHECKS WERE IN THE SAME AMOUNT. THE RECERTIFIED 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.

B-226752, MAY 1, 1987, OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL

APPROPRIATIONS/FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT - ACCOUNTABLE OFFICERS - DISBURSING OFFICERS - RELIEF - ILLEGAL/IMPROPER PAYMENTS - SUBSTITUTE CHECKS DIGEST: RELIEF IS GRANTED ARMY DISBURSING OFFICIALS UNDER 31 U.S.C. SEC. 3527(C) FROM LIABILITY FOR IMPROPER PAYMENTS RESULTING FROM PAYEE'S NEGOTIATION OF BOTH ORIGINAL RECERTIFIED CHECK. PROPER PROCEDURES WERE FOLLOWED IN THE ISSUANCE OF THE RECERTIFIED CHECK, THERE WAS NO INDICATION OF BAD FAITH ON THE PART OF THE DISBURSING OFFICIALS AND SUBSEQUENT COLLECTION ATTEMPTS ARE BEING PURSUED. HOWEVER, FOR CASES INVOLVING NOTICES OF LOSSES RECEIVED AFTER JUNE 12, 1986, WHERE THE PAYEE HAS LEFT THE ARMY OR ITS EMPLOY, WE WILL NO LONGER GRANT RELIEF IF ARMY DELAYS MORE THAN 3 MONTHS IN FORWARDING THE DEBT TO YOUR COLLECTION DIVISION.

BRIGADIER GENERAL B. W. HALL:

THIS RESPONDS TO YOUR REQUEST OF APRIL 2, 1987, THAT WE RELIEVE MR. L. W. MASCHINO, SPECIAL DISBURSING AGENT (SDA), FINANCE CORPS, DDSN 5521, FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING OFFICERS, OMAHA DISTRICT, CORPS OF ENGINEERS, OMAHA, NEBRASKA UNDER 31 U.S.C. SEC. 3527(C) FOR AN IMPROPER PAYMENT OF A $119.87 CHECK PAYABLE TO MS. AUDREY L. SIMMONS. WE HAVE ALSO INCLUDED MR. MASHINO'S SUCCESSOR, MR. J. M. BURKE, SPECIAL DISBURSING AGENCY (SDA), TO YOUR RELIEF REQUEST SINCE HE ISSUED THE RECERTIFIED PAYMENT. FOR THE REASONS STATED BELOW, RELIEF IS GRANTED TO BOTH AGENTS.

THE LOSS RESULTED WHEN THE PAYEE NEGOTIATED BOTH THE ORIGINAL AND A RECERTIFIED CHECK. BOTH CHECKS WERE IN THE SAME AMOUNT. THE RECERTIFIED 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. BOTH CHECKS WERE ISSUED BY THE ARMY UNDER AUTHORITY DELEGATED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY, 31 C.F.R. SEC. 245.8 AND TREASURY FISCAL REQUIREMENTS MANUAL FOR GUIDANCE OF DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES, BULLETIN NO. 83-28.

IT APPEARS THAT THE ISSUANCE OF A RECERTIFIED CHECK IN THIS CASE WAS WITHIN THE BOUNDS OF DUE CARE. ID. THERE WAS NO INDICATION OF BAD FAITH ON THE PART OF THE DISBURSING OFFICERS AND ADEQUATE COLLECTION EFFORTS ARE NOW BEING MADE. ACCORDINGLY, WE GRANT RELIEF.

ALTHOUGH WE HAVE GRANTED RELIEF TO THE DISBURSING OFFICERS IN THIS CASE, WE DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THE ARMY'S COLLECTION PROCEDURES, TAKEN TOGETHER, MEET THE DILIGENT CLAIMS COLLECTION REQUIREMENT OF 31 U.S.C. SEC. 3527(C). FROM THE DATE ON THE CHARGEBACK, IT TOOK THE ARMY ALMOST 10 MONTHS TO FIRST REFER THE MATTER TO YOUR COLLECTION DIVISION. SINCE THE CIVILIAN PERSONNEL CENTER IN WASHINGTON, D.C. HAD NOT RECEIVED CORRESPONDENCE FROM OMAHA ADVISING THEM OF MS. SIMMONS' RESIGNATION, THE COLLECTION DIVISION LOCATED HER ON THE ACTIVE ROLL AND RETURNED THE CASE TO THE OMAHA DISTRICT. FIVE MONTHS AFTER THE FIRST REQUEST, THE OMAHA DISTRICT AGAIN REFERRED THE CASE TO YOUR COLLECTION DIVISION AFTER VERIFYING THAT MS. SIMMONS WAS NOT ON THE ACTIVE ROLL.

AS WE PREVIOUSLY INDICATED TO YOU, FOR CASES INVOLVING NOTICES OF LOSSES RECEIVED AFTER JUNE 1, 1986, WHERE THE PAYEE HAS LEFT THE ARMY OR ITS EMPLOY, WE WILL NO LONGER GRANT RELIEF IF ARMY DELAYS MORE THAN 3 MONTHS IN FORWARDING THE DEBT TO YOUR COLLECTION DIVISION. HOWEVER, SINCE THE CHARGEBACK FROM TREASURY WAS RECEIVED WAS RECEIVED PRIOR TO THAT DATE, WE WILL NOT DENY RELIEF HERE.