B-244304, Jul 26, 1991

B-244304: Jul 26, 1991

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APPROPRIATIONS/FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT - Claims Against Government - Burden of proof PROCUREMENT - Payment/Discharge - Shipment - Carrier liability - Burden of proof DIGEST: Claims for supplies and services allegedly delivered to the Navy may not be paid where the record fails to show that the supplies and services were actually received and accepted by the Navy. The burden is on the claimant to furnish evidence to substantiate delivery and acceptance. Southeastern also stated in general that much of its paperwork was lost or destroyed during hurricane Hugo. The claim will be denied. Claims may be paid even though official records have been lost or destroyed. Or are otherwise unavailable. All that Southeastern has submitted in support of its claims are four invoices.

B-244304, Jul 26, 1991

APPROPRIATIONS/FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT - Claims Against Government - Burden of proof PROCUREMENT - Payment/Discharge - Shipment - Carrier liability - Burden of proof DIGEST: Claims for supplies and services allegedly delivered to the Navy may not be paid where the record fails to show that the supplies and services were actually received and accepted by the Navy. The burden is on the claimant to furnish evidence to substantiate delivery and acceptance.

Southeastern Fire Control, Inc.:

The Navy has forwarded to our Office for settlement claims by Southeastern Fire Control, Inc., totaling $1,984.15 for supplies and services the company says it provided for the Naval Supply Center and certain Navy ships in Charleston, South Carolina, between October 1986 and April 1988. For the reasons discussed below, the claims may not be paid.

Upon receiving the claims, the Navy requested additional information supporting them (including purchase orders or other contract documents) from the claimant as well as from the Naval Supply Center and the ships that allegedly received the supplies or services. Southeastern responded that it could not provide additional documentation because its Charleston division had been sold to another firm that has the paperwork related to the claims and which refuses to give Southeastern the purchase orders or any other supporting documentation. Southeastern also stated in general that much of its paperwork was lost or destroyed during hurricane Hugo. Further, the Navy advises that it cannot provide any evidence that it actually received the supplies/services, because it did not retain some of the records due to their advanced age and because the claimant did not provide the applicable call numbers or document numbers necessary to locate other relevant records.

A claimant bears the burden of establishing the merits of its claim by clear and convincing evidence, and where a substantial question of law or fact exists, the claim will be denied. Jockey International, Inc., B-185416, Jan. 23, 1976, 76-1 CPD Para. 41. However, claims may be paid even though official records have been lost or destroyed, or are otherwise unavailable, if the claimant furnishes other satisfactory evidence that reasonably substantiates both the validity of the claim and absence of prior payment. B-238239, Mar. 19, 1991.

Here, all that Southeastern has submitted in support of its claims are four invoices, and they contain only brief descriptions of the goods or services for which payment is requested. For example, one invoice states without further explanation that one valve was delivered at a unit price of $93.00; the same invoice states elsewhere that a second valve was delivered at a unit price of $32.00. Moreover, neither the Navy nor the claimant has presented any other evidence from which we can determine whether the supplies/services in question were delivered and accepted by the Navy or whether the Navy has already paid for them. Furthermore, the Navy has not recommended that the claims be paid.

In these circumstances, the record does not establish legal liability on the part of the government, and we therefore have no authority to certify Southeastern's claims for payment. See Sperry Vickers, B-187857, Dec. 23, 1976. Accordingly, the claims are denied.