B-65163, MAY 15, 1947, 26 COMP. GEN. 879

B-65163: May 15, 1947

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TELEGRAMS - EVIDENCE REQUIREMENTS FOR PAYMENT - ABSENCE OF ORIGINAL COPIES OF OUTGOING MESSAGES CREDIT MAY NOT BE ALLOWED IN A POSTMASTER'S ACCOUNT FOR PAYMENTS FOR SENT PAID TELEGRAPH MESSAGES WHERE THE VOUCHERS COVERING THE PAYMENTS ARE NOT SUPPORTED BY THE ORIGINAL COPIES OF THE TRANSMITTED MESSAGES. 1947: I HAVE A LETTER OF APRIL 3. WAS DIRECTED TO SEND TELEGRAMS READING AS FOLLOWS TO FOUR NEIGHBORING POST OFFICES LOCATED AT STUART. KENBRIDGE: " I HAVE A TELEGRAM FROM J. THAT IS. YOU ARE ALSO INSTRUCTED TO NOTIFY ALL POSTMASTERS IN YOUR COUNTY CONCERNING SAME. THE POSTMASTER REQUESTED AN ALLOWANCE FOR THESE TELEGRAMS WHICH WAS ALLOWED BY THIS OFFICE ON JOURNAL NO. 727. THE EXPENDITURE ITEM WAS DISALLOWED BY THE POSTAL ACCOUNTS DIVISION OF YOUR OFFICE BECAUSE THE POSTMASTER FAILED TO SUBMIT THE ORIGINAL TRANSMISSION COPIES OF THE TELEGRAMS.

B-65163, MAY 15, 1947, 26 COMP. GEN. 879

TELEGRAMS - EVIDENCE REQUIREMENTS FOR PAYMENT - ABSENCE OF ORIGINAL COPIES OF OUTGOING MESSAGES CREDIT MAY NOT BE ALLOWED IN A POSTMASTER'S ACCOUNT FOR PAYMENTS FOR SENT PAID TELEGRAPH MESSAGES WHERE THE VOUCHERS COVERING THE PAYMENTS ARE NOT SUPPORTED BY THE ORIGINAL COPIES OF THE TRANSMITTED MESSAGES, AS REQUIRED BY THE ESTABLISHED RULE OF THE ACCOUNTING OFFICERS, THE POSTAL SERVICE REGULATIONS, AND THE TARIFF BOOKS OF THE TELEGRAPH COMPANY.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL WARREN TO THE POSTMASTER GENERAL, MAY 15, 1947:

I HAVE A LETTER OF APRIL 3, 1947, FROM THE ACTING POSTMASTER GENERAL, REFERENCE 15, AS FOLLOWS:

UNDER DATE OF JULY 9, 1946, THE POSTMASTER AT DANVILLE, VIRGINIA, WAS DIRECTED TO SEND TELEGRAMS READING AS FOLLOWS TO FOUR NEIGHBORING POST OFFICES LOCATED AT STUART, SOUTH HILL, KEYSVILLE, AND KENBRIDGE:

" I HAVE A TELEGRAM FROM J. S. VICK PO INSPECTOR IN CHARGE REQUESTING ME TO RELAY THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION TO YOU: "EFFECTIVE JULY 9 US MONEY ORDERS DRAWN ON CANADA SHALL BE SOLD AT PAR, THAT IS, ONE US DOLLAR EQUALS ONE CANADIAN DOLLAR.' YOU ARE ALSO INSTRUCTED TO NOTIFY ALL POSTMASTERS IN YOUR COUNTY CONCERNING SAME, EITHER BY PHONE OR LETTER.'

THE POSTMASTER PAID THE WESTERN UNION $1.57 FOR THE TELEGRAM TO STUART, AND $1.45 FOR THE TELEGRAMS TO THE OTHER THREE OFFICES, TOTAL $5.92. THE POSTMASTER REQUESTED AN ALLOWANCE FOR THESE TELEGRAMS WHICH WAS ALLOWED BY THIS OFFICE ON JOURNAL NO. 727, OCTOBER 18, 1946. HE THEN TOOK CREDIT FOR THIS EXPENDITURE IN HIS QUARTERLY ACCOUNT AND SUBMITTED WITH THE ACCOUNT A CERTIFIED BILL FROM THE WESTERN UNION AS EVIDENCE OF THE PAYMENT FOR THESE TELEGRAMS. THE EXPENDITURE ITEM WAS DISALLOWED BY THE POSTAL ACCOUNTS DIVISION OF YOUR OFFICE BECAUSE THE POSTMASTER FAILED TO SUBMIT THE ORIGINAL TRANSMISSION COPIES OF THE TELEGRAMS. THE POSTMASTER HAS BEEN UNABLE TO OBTAIN THE ORIGINAL TRANSMISSION COPIES OF THE TELEGRAMS FROM THE TELEGRAPH OFFICE.

ON MARCH 13, 1947, THE FIRST ASSISTANT POSTMASTER GENERAL WROTE TO THE CHIEF OF THE POSTAL ACCOUNTS DIVISION OF YOUR OFFICE ADVISING HIM THAT THE ORIGINAL TELEGRAMS COULD NOT BE LOCATED AND REQUESTED HIS ADVICE AS TO WHAT STEPS COULD BE TAKEN BY THE POSTMASTER TO OBTAIN CREDIT FOR THESE TELEGRAMS, EVEN TO THE EXTENT OF PROVIDING A NEW SET OF TELEGRAMS TO BE PROPERLY STAMPED BY THE TELEGRAPH OFFICE. A COPY OF THAT LETTER IS ATTACHED. IN HIS REPLY DATED MARCH 20, 1947, COPY OF WHICH LETTER IS HEREWITH, THE ACTING CHIEF OF THE POSTAL ACCOUNTS DIVISION STATES THAT CREDIT MAY NOT BE ALLOWED THE POSTMASTER IN THE ABSENCE OF EITHER THE ORIGINAL TRANSMISSION COPIES OR THE ORIGINAL MESSAGES. HE CALLS ATTENTION TO YOUR DECISION DATED JANUARY 11, 1944 (B-39188). INFORMAL INQUIRY OF YOUR OFFICE ELICITED THE INFORMATION THAT THIS DECISION IS UNPUBLISHED AND THAT NO COPIES ARE AVAILABLE FOR DISTRIBUTION. WHILE I AM NOT AWARE OF THE CONTENTS OF THIS DECISION IT SEEMS INCREDIBLE THAT A POSTMASTER CAN NOT RECEIVE CREDIT FOR A LEGITIMATELY AUTHORIZED EXPENDITURE MERELY BECAUSE THE ORIGINAL COPIES OF THE TELEGRAMS WERE LOST.

I SHALL APPRECIATE YOUR REVIEWING THIS MATTER AND ADVISING ME AS TO WHETHER YOU CONCUR IN THE CONCLUSION REACHED BY THE POSTAL ACCOUNTS DIVISION OF YOUR OFFICE IN THIS MATTER, WHICH IS TO THE EFFECT THAT IT IS TOTALLY IMPOSSIBLE FOR THIS POSTMASTER TO RECEIVE CREDIT FOR THIS EXPENDITURE UNLESS HE CAN PRODUCE THE ORIGINAL TRANSMISSION COPIES OF THESE TELEGRAMS.

THE REFERRED-TO DECISION OF JANUARY 11, 1944, B-39188, WAS ADDRESSED TO A CERTIFYING OFFICER OF THE CIVIL AERONAUTICS ADMINISTRATION, WHO HAD SUBMITTED FOR DECISION THE QUESTION AS TO WHETHE A VOUCHER COVERING PAYMENT FOR TELEGRAPH SERVICES PROPERLY COULD BE CERTIFIED FOR PAYMENT. WHILE THE INVOICES ATTACHED TO THE VOUCHER GAVE THE DATES OF THE RESPECTIVE MESSAGES, THE DESTINATIONS, AND THE CHARGES, THEY DID NOT SHOW THE NUMBER OF WORDS IN THE MESSAGES, AND NO COPIES OR ORIGINALS OF THE TELEGRAMS WERE ATTACHED FROM WHICH THE NATURE OF THE MESSAGES COULD BE ASCERTAINED OR THE CORRECTNESS OF THE CHARGES AUDITED. SINCE THE VOUCHER WAS NOT SUPPORTED BY THE ORIGINAL TELEGRAMS OR BY TRANSMISSION COPIES OF THE MESSAGES ALLEGED TO HAVE BEEN TRANSMITTED, PAYMENT THEREON WAS NOT AUTHORIZED. THAT DECISION DID NOT ESTABLISH ANY NEW RULE. ON THE CONTRARY, IT WAS BASED UPON NUMEROUS DECISIONS OF THE ACCOUNTING OFFICERS OF THE GOVERNMENT. IN DECISION OF THE COMPTROLLER OF THE TREASURY DATED NOVEMBER 18, 1897, 4 COMP. DEC. 233, IT WAS HELD THAT ORIGINAL TELEGRAMS MUST BE TRANSMITTED TO THE ACCOUNTING OFFICERS IN SUPPORT OF BILLS FOR THE PAYMENT OF TELEGRAPH CHARGES. BY DECISION OF JULY 19, 1915, 22 COMP. DEC. 26, THE RULE ANNOUNCED IN 4 COMP. DEC. 233 WAS AFFIRMED WITH THE STATEMENT THAT THE "RULE IS A SALUTARY ONE AND FORMS THE BASIS OF A SAFE, SATISFACTORY, AND INTELLIGENT AUDIT AND SETTLEMENT OF THIS CLASS OF ACCOUNTS AND CLAIMS.' IN DECISION OF MAY 10, 1935, A-61087, PUBLISHED IN 14 COMP. GEN. 825, AT PAGE 826, IT WAS STATED:

IT IS A WELL ESTABLISHED ACCOUNTING PRINCIPLE AND A LONG FOLLOWED PRACTICE OF ACCOUNTING OFFICERS TO REQUIRE, IN SUPPORT OF CLAIMS FOR TELEGRAPH SERVICES, THE ORIGINALS OF OUTGOING MESSAGES. THE REGULATIONS OF THE VARIOUS DEPARTMENTS AND BUREAUS OF THE GOVERNMENT QUITE GENERALLY STATE THIS REQUIREMENT, AND THE DECISIONS OF THIS OFFICE HAVE BEEN QUITE UNIFORM IN THIS REQUIREMENT, UNLESS AN UNUSUAL PUBLIC MATTER REQUIRED THE SENDING OF A CONFIDENTIAL TELEGRAM, WHICH IS NOT THE INSTANT CASE AND NEED NOT BE COMMENTED ON HERE. * * *

ALSO, SEE 16 COMP. GEN. 217; 21 ID. 94; 22 ID. 387.

SECTION 440, PARAGRAPH 5, OF THE POSTAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS 1940, PROVIDES AS FOLLOWS:

COPIES OF ALL PREPAID MESSAGES WITH A STATEMENT COVERING THE COST OF SUCH MESSAGES SHALL BE FORWARDED TO THE FIRST ASSISTANT, DIVISION OF POST OFFICE SERVICE, AT THE CLOSE OF EACH QUARTER WITH A REQUEST FOR AN ALLOWANCE TO COVER SUCH EXPENDITURES. TELEGRAPH COMPANIES MUST BE REQUIRED TO RETURN TO THE POSTMASTER THE ORIGINALS OF ALL PREPAID MESSAGES WITH PROPERLY CERTIFIED BILLS. * * *

THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH COMPANY HAS RECOGNIZED THE WELL ESTABLISHED ACCOUNTING PRINCIPLE THAT ORIGINALS OF OUTGOING MESSAGES ARE REQUIRED BY THE ACCOUNTING OFFICERS OF THE GOVERNMENT AND HAS INCORPORATED THE REQUIREMENT IN ITS TARIFF BOOKS OVER THE YEARS. THE LATEST TARIFF BOOK--- TARIFF BOOK NO. 75, 1946--- AT PAGE 421, PARAGRAPH 34, UNDER THE HEADING "1LOCAL CHARGE ACCOUNTS FOR GOVERNMENT MESSAGES" CONTAINS THE FOLLOWING INSTRUCTIONS:

ORIGINALS OF SENT PAID MESSAGES, COPIES OF RECEIVED COLLECT MESSAGES, AND ERRAND SERVICE TICKETS OR OTHER BILLED ITEMS, SHALL BE FORWARDED TO THE PATRON WITH THE CERTIFIED MONTHLY BILL. IN THE CASE OF GOVERNMENT MESSAGES FILLED OVER TIE/LINES OR AT WIRE-OPERATED BRANCH OFFICES OR AGENCIES, WIRE RELAY COPIES OF MESSAGES SHALL BE CONSIDERED ORIGINALS.

IN REPLY TO THE EXCEPTION TAKEN IN HIS ACCOUNTS TO THE PAYMENT HERE INVOLVED, THE POSTMASTER STATED THAT IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE TO SUBMIT THE ORIGINAL TRANSMISSION COPIES BECAUSE THEY WERE EITHER MISPLACED OR DESTROYED BY THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH COMPANY OFFICE AT DANVILLE, VIRGINIA. BUT UNDER ITS OWN REGULATIONS, THE CLAIM OF THE LOCAL OFFICE OF THE TELEGRAPH COMPANY ON THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT AGENCY FOR OUTGOING OFFICIAL MESSAGES SHOULD HAVE BEEN SUPPORTED BY THE ORIGINAL COPIES OF SAID MESSAGES. MOREOVER, UNDER SECTION 440 OF THE POSTAL LAWS AND REGULATIONS 1940, SUPRA, THE POSTMASTER SHOULD HAVE REQUIRED THE FURNISHING OF THE ORIGINALS BEFORE PAYING THE INVOICE OF THE TELEGRAPH COMPANY. HENCE, IT IS CLEAR THAT THE ACTION OF THE POSTMASTER IN MAKING PAYMENT OF THE TELEGRAPH COMPANY'S INVOICE UNSUPPORTED BY THE ORIGINAL COPIES OF THE TRANSMITTED MESSAGES WAS IMPROPER.

IN VIEW OF THE WELL ESTABLISHED ACCOUNTING PRINCIPLE AND THE FACT THAT THE WESTERN UNION TELEGRAPH COMPANY HAS RECOGNIZED AND INCORPORATED IT IN ITS TARIFF BOOK NO. 75, 1946, THERE WAS NO REASONABLE JUSTIFICATION OR EXCUSE FOR THE FAILURE OF THE OFFICIALS OF THE TELEGRAPH COMPANY TO SUBMIT THE ORIGINAL MESSAGES WITH ITS INVOICE OR FOR THE ACTION OF THE POSTMASTER IN MAKING PAYMENT ON VOUCHERS NOT SUPPORTED BY THE ORIGINAL MESSAGES. COMP. GEN. 825. ACCORDINGLY, UPON THE PRESENT RECORD, CREDIT MAY NOT BE ALLOWED THE POSTMASTER FOR THE PAYMENT IN QUESTION.