B-5857, SEPTEMBER 15, 1939, 19 COMP. GEN. 365

B-5857: Sep 15, 1939

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PROVIDING THAT "IN MAKING PAYMENTS FOR COMMODITIES OR SERVICES THE QUANTITY OF WHICH IS DETERMINED BY METERED READINGS. " IS NOT FOR APPLICATION SO AS TO MAKE THE APPROPRIATION " CONTINGENT EXPENSES. SUCH CHARGES MUST BE PRORATED SO THAT THE CHARGE TO ANY ONE FISCAL YEAR APPROPRIATION WILL NOT EXCEED THE COST OF SERVICE FOR A ONE-YEAR PERIOD ENDING IN THAT FISCAL YEAR. 1939: I HAVE YOUR LETTER OF AUGUST 31. THE EMBASSY HAS REPORTED THAT ACCORDING TO ITS RECORDS THE LAST PAYMENT FOR WATER SUPPLIED THE EMBASSY WAS MADE ON JUNE 29. THAT SINCE THAT TIME THE QUESTION OF PAYMENT FOR WATER HAS BEEN UNSETTLED IN VIEW OF THE UNCERTAINTY WHETHER THE CHARGE WAS IN THE NATURE OF A TAX. IT WAS DECIDED THAT THE AMERICAN EMBASSY IN MEXICO CITY SHOULD NO LONGER BE ACCORDED EXEMPTION FROM PAYMENT OF WATER CHARGES.

B-5857, SEPTEMBER 15, 1939, 19 COMP. GEN. 365

PUBLIC UTILITIES - MULTIPLE FISCAL YEAR SERVICE - APPROPRIATION AVAILABILITY THE ACT OF APRIL 27, 1937, 50 STAT. 119, PROVIDING THAT "IN MAKING PAYMENTS FOR COMMODITIES OR SERVICES THE QUANTITY OF WHICH IS DETERMINED BY METERED READINGS, SUCH AS GAS, ELECTRICITY, WATER, STEAM, AND THE LIKE, WHERE THE PERIOD COVERED BY THE CHARGE BEGINS IN ONE FISCAL YEAR OR ALLOTMENT PERIOD AND ENDS IN ANOTHER, THE ENTIRE AMOUNT OF THE PAYMENT MAY BE REGARDED AS A CHARGE AGAINST THE APPROPRIATION OR ALLOTMENT CURRENT AT THE END OF SUCH PERIOD," IS NOT FOR APPLICATION SO AS TO MAKE THE APPROPRIATION " CONTINGENT EXPENSES, FOREIGN SERVICE, 1940" AVAILABLE FOR PAYMENT OF ACCRUED CHARGES FOR WATER SERVICE FOR AN AMERICAN EMBASSY FOR A PERIOD OF MORE THAN SIX YEARS, AND SUCH CHARGES MUST BE PRORATED SO THAT THE CHARGE TO ANY ONE FISCAL YEAR APPROPRIATION WILL NOT EXCEED THE COST OF SERVICE FOR A ONE-YEAR PERIOD ENDING IN THAT FISCAL YEAR.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL BROWN TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE, SEPTEMBER 15, 1939:

I HAVE YOUR LETTER OF AUGUST 31, 1939, AS FOLLOWS:

BY DESPATCH NO. 7877 OF DECEMBER 29, 1938, THE EMBASSY AT MEXICO CITY BROUGHT TO THE DEPARTMENT'S ATTENTION A BILL PRESENTED IN NOVEMBER 1938 BY THE DIRECTOR OF WATERS AND DRAINAGE OF THE FEDERAL DISTRICT FOR WATER SERVICES TO THE GOVERNMENT-OWNED CHANCERY AND RESIDENCE BUILDINGS IN MEXICO CITY FOR THE PERIOD FROM AUGUST 1, 1932, TO OCTOBER 31, 1938. THE BILL AMOUNTS TO 1,171.23 PESOS OR APPROXIMATELY $199.11.

THE EMBASSY HAS REPORTED THAT ACCORDING TO ITS RECORDS THE LAST PAYMENT FOR WATER SUPPLIED THE EMBASSY WAS MADE ON JUNE 29, 1928, AND THAT SINCE THAT TIME THE QUESTION OF PAYMENT FOR WATER HAS BEEN UNSETTLED IN VIEW OF THE UNCERTAINTY WHETHER THE CHARGE WAS IN THE NATURE OF A TAX, FROM THE PAYMENT OF WHICH THE EMBASSY SHOULD BE EXEMPT, OR A CHARGE FOR THE SERVICE RENDERED. WHEN, EARLY IN 1937, THE FEDERAL DISTRICT LEARNED THAT THE MEXICAN EMBASSY IN WASHINGTON PAID WATER RATES IN THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, IT WAS DECIDED THAT THE AMERICAN EMBASSY IN MEXICO CITY SHOULD NO LONGER BE ACCORDED EXEMPTION FROM PAYMENT OF WATER CHARGES. ACCORDINGLY THE BILL OF NOVEMBER 29, 1938, WAS PRESENTED.

IT HAS NOW BEEN ASCERTAINED THAT THE CHARGES FOR WATER FURNISHED THE EMBASSY ARE NOT A TAX BUT A FEE FOR A SERVICE. IN A LETTER OF JULY 5, 1939, THE DIRECTOR OF WATERS AND DRAINAGE OF THE FEDERAL DISTRICT INFORMED THE EMBASSY THAT "THE RATES PAID BY CONSUMERS OF POTABLE WATER IN THE FEDERAL DISTRICT ARE, IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAW OF THE PUBLIC SERVICE OF POTABLE WATERS, A FEE FOR SUCH SERVICE, THAT IS TO SAY, A COMPENSATION FOR THE WATER FURNISHED TO THE USERS THEREOF, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE A TAX, NOR IS IT SUBJECT TO THE SURCHARGE WHICH THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT HAS ESTABLISHED ON THE REVENUES OF LOCAL GOVERNMENTS.'

THE CHARGES BEING RECOGNIZED AS JUST AND PAYABLE, AND PAYMENT NOT HAVING BEEN MADE, IT IS INTENDED NOW TO AUTHORIZE THE EMBASSY TO PAY THE CHARGES FOR WATER FURNISHED THE EMBASSY BUILDINGS FOR THE PERIOD FROM AUGUST 1, 1932, TO OCTOBER 31, 1938, AS PRESENTED IN THE BILL. WHILE THE BILL COVERS THE PERIOD ONLY FROM AUGUST 1, 1932, YOU WILL SEE THAT THERE IS A POSSIBILITY THAT CLAIM MAY BE MADE BY THE MEXICAN AUTHORITIES FOR THE PERIOD FROM JULY 1, 1928. IN AUTHORIZING THE EMBASSY TO PAY THE BILL FOR WATER CHARGES THERE IS FOR DETERMINATION:

(1) WHETHER THE PAYMENT MAY BE MADE AT THIS TIME FROM THE APPROPRIATION FOR " CONTINGENT EXPENSES, FOREIGN SERVICE" AUTHORIZED BY THE ACT MAKING APPROPRIATIONS FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE FOR THE 1940 FISCAL YEAR ( PUBLIC, NO. 156, 76TH CONGRESS, APPROVED JUNE 29, 1939) AND UNDER AUTHORITY OF THE ACT OF APRIL 27, 1937 ( PUBLIC, NO. 57, 75TH CONGRESS) PRESCRIBING

"THAT HEREAFTER, IN MAKING PAYMENTS FOR COMMODITIES OR SERVICES THE QUANTITY OF WHICH IS DETERMINED BY METERED READINGS, SUCH AS GAS, ELECTRICITY, WATER, STEAM, AND THE LIKE, WHERE THE PERIOD COVERED BY THE CHARGE BEGINS IN ONE FISCAL YEAR OR ALLOTMENT PERIOD AND ENDS IN ANOTHER, THE ENTIRE AMOUNT OF THE PAYMENT MAY BE REGARDED AS A CHARGE AGAINST THE APPROPRIATION OR ALLOTMENT CURRENT AT THE END OF SUCH PERIOD.'

(2) WHETHER IT WILL BE NECESSARY TO PRESENT A SERIES OF AUDITED CLAIMS RUNNING BACK TO THE 1933 FISCAL YEAR.

AN EXPRESSION OF YOUR VIEWS WILL BE APPRECIATED.

THE ACT OF APRIL 27, 1937, 50 STAT. 119, IS NOT FOR APPLICATION IN SUCH MANNER AS TO COVER THE CASE YOU PRESENT. IT WAS ENACTED FOR THE PURPOSE OF SIMPLIFYING THE ACCOUNTING PRACTICE OF DIVIDING PUBLIC UTILITY CHARGES BETWEEN TWO FISCAL YEAR APPROPRIATIONS WHEN THE ACCOUNTING PERIOD INVOLVED BEGAN IN ONE FISCAL YEAR AND ENDED IN THE SUCCEEDING FISCAL YEAR. THE APPROPRIATION " CONTINGENT EXPENSES, FOREIGN SERVICE, 1940," AS MADE BY THE ACT OF JUNE 29, 1939, PUBLIC, NO. 156, APPEARS IN AN ACT MAKING APPROPRIATIONS FOR THE FISCAL YEAR ENDING JUNE 30, 1940, AND THERE IS NOTHING THEREIN TO MAKE SAID APPROPRIATION AVAILABLE FOR OBLIGATIONS INCURRED IN PREVIOUS FISCAL YEARS. COMPARE 2 COMP. GEN. 451 AND DECISION OF FEBRUARY 6, 1932, A 40563.

ACCORDINGLY, IT MUST BE HELD THAT THE CHARGE FOR WATER SERVICE FOR THE PERIOD IN QUESTION MUST BE PRORATED SO THAT THE CHARGE TO ANY ONE FISCAL YEAR APPROPRIATION WILL NOT EXCEED THE COST OF SERVICE FOR A 1 YEAR PERIOD ENDING IN THAT FISCAL YEAR.