B-82604, APRIL 29, 1949, 28 COMP. GEN. 624

B-82604: Apr 29, 1949

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ARE NOT APPLICABLE TO CLAIMS OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FOR REFUND OF OVERPAYMENTS IN THE ABSENCE OF SPECIFIC STATUTORY PROVISIONS TO THAT EFFECT. 1949: REFERENCE IS MADE TO LETTER DATED DECEMBER 28. WHEREIN ATTENTION IS INVITED TO SECTION 415 OF THE COMMUNICATIONS ACT OF 1934. RCA DOES NOT QUESTION THE FACT THAT OVERPAYMENTS MAY HAVE BEEN MADE ON THE INVOLVED VOUCHER BUT CALLS ATTENTION TO THE FACT THAT ITS RECORDS COVERING TRAFFIC NOW THREE YEARS OLD ARE PROBABLY NOT AVAILABLE TO VERIFY THE CLAIM. SINCE THE GOVERNMENT'S CLAIM FOR OVERPAYMENTS MADE ON THE SAID VOUCHER WAS NOT FILED WITHIN THE PERIOD OF LIMITATION ESTABLISHED IN THE COMMUNICATIONS ACT OF 1934. THE RIGHT TO THE REFUND IS NOW BARRED.

B-82604, APRIL 29, 1949, 28 COMP. GEN. 624

STATUTES OF LIMITATIONS - EFFECT ON RIGHTS OF UNITED STATES TO RECOVER OVERCHARGES UNDER THE COMMUNICATIONS ACT OF 1934 THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 415 OF THE COMMUNICATIONS ACT OF 1934, REQUIRING THAT ACTIONS AT LAW FOR RECOVERY OF OVERCHARGES SHALL BE BEGUN OR COMPLAINTS FILED WITH THE FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION AGAINST CARRIERS WITHIN ONE YEAR FROM THE TIME THE CAUSE OF ACTION ACCRUES, AND NOT AFTER, ARE NOT APPLICABLE TO CLAIMS OF THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT FOR REFUND OF OVERPAYMENTS IN THE ABSENCE OF SPECIFIC STATUTORY PROVISIONS TO THAT EFFECT.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL WARREN TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE, APRIL 29, 1949:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO LETTER DATED DECEMBER 28, 1948, FROM THE CHIEF, DIVISION OF FINANCE, DEPARTMENT OF STATE, TRANSMITTING ON YOUR BEHALF A LETTER DATED JUNE 4, 1948, FROM THE ASSISTANT VICE PRESIDENT, RCA COMMUNICATIONS, INC., WASHINGTON 6, D.C., WHEREIN ATTENTION IS INVITED TO SECTION 415 OF THE COMMUNICATIONS ACT OF 1934, 48 STAT. 1099, 1100, 47 U.S.C. 415, IN CONNECTION WITH EXCEPTION TAKEN TO VOUCHER 756887, NOVEMBER 1945 ACCOUNT OF G. F. ALLEN, RELATING TO OVERCHARGES ON CERTAIN MESSAGES SENT IN JUNE 1945 TO BERNE, SWITZERLAND; CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA; AND ZURICH, SWITZERLAND.

SECTION 415 OF THE COMMUNICATIONS ACT OF 1934 PROVIDES IN PART:

(C) FOR RECOVERY OF OVERCHARGES ACTION AT LAW SHALL BE BEGUN OR COMPLAINT FILED WITH THE COMMISSION AGAINST CARRIERS WITHIN ONE YEAR FROM THE TIME THE CAUSE OF ACTION ACCRUES, AND NOT AFTER, * * *.

APPARENTLY, RCA DOES NOT QUESTION THE FACT THAT OVERPAYMENTS MAY HAVE BEEN MADE ON THE INVOLVED VOUCHER BUT CALLS ATTENTION TO THE FACT THAT ITS RECORDS COVERING TRAFFIC NOW THREE YEARS OLD ARE PROBABLY NOT AVAILABLE TO VERIFY THE CLAIM. IN OTHER WORDS, THE COMPANY APPEARS TO IMPLY THAT IT MIGHT TAKE THE POSITION THAT, SINCE THE GOVERNMENT'S CLAIM FOR OVERPAYMENTS MADE ON THE SAID VOUCHER WAS NOT FILED WITHIN THE PERIOD OF LIMITATION ESTABLISHED IN THE COMMUNICATIONS ACT OF 1934, THE RIGHT TO THE REFUND IS NOW BARRED.

WITH RESPECT TO SUCH IMPLIED CONTENTION, IT IS TO BE OBSERVED THAT STATUTES OF LIMITATIONS, IN THE ABSENCE OF SPECIFIC STATUTORY PROVISIONS OTHERWISE, DO NOT RUN AGAINST THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. IN THIS CONNECTION, IT WAS STATED BY THE COURT IN MISSOURI-1KANSAS-1TEXAS R.R. CO. OF TEXAS V. UNITED STATES, 62 C.CLS. 373, 377:

* * * UNQUESTIONABLY THE RULE IS THAT IT REQUIRES CONGRESSIONAL ACTION CLEARLY MANIFESTING SUCH A PURPOSE BEFORE THE UNITED STATES CAN BE BOUND BY STATUTES OF LIMITATIONS. SEE UNITED STATES V. NASHVILLE RY. CO., 118 U.S. 120, 125. IT IS SAID THAT " NO LACHES CAN BE IMPUTED TO THE GOVERNMENT, AND AGAINST IT NO TIME RUNS SO AS TO BAR ITS RIGHTS.' SEE THOMPSON CASE, 98 U.S. 486, 488. THE RULE IS NOT CONFINED TO STATUTES OF LIMITATIONS. IN KIRKPATRICK'S CASE 9 WHEAT. 720, 735, MR. JUSTICE STORY, SPEAKING FOR THE COURT SAYS: " THE GENERAL PRINCIPLE IS THAT LACHES IS NOT IMPUTABLE TO THE GOVERNMENT; AND THIS MAXIM IS FOUNDED NOT IN THE NOTION OF EXTRAORDINARY PREROGATIVE BUT UPON A GREAT PUBLIC POLICY. THE GOVERNMENT CAN TRANSACT ITS BUSINESS ONLY THROUGH ITS AGENTS, AND ITS FISCAL OPERATIONS ARE SO VARIOUS AND ITS AGENCIES SO NUMEROUS AND SCATTERED THAT THE UTMOST VIGILANCE WOULD NOT SAVE THE PUBLIC FROM THE MOST SERIOUS LOSSES IF THE DOCTRINE OF LACHES CAN BE APPLIED TO ITS TRANSACTIONS.' SEE UNITED STATES V. AMERICAN BELL TELEPHONE CO., 159 U.S. 548, 554 * * *. ..END :