B-97870, SEPTEMBER 6, 1951, 31 COMP. GEN. 75

B-97870: Sep 6, 1951

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UPON REQUEST BY A CLAIMANT FOR REVIEW OF A SETTLEMENT THE ENTIRE AMOUNT PROPERLY MAY BE REOPENED FOR RECONSIDERATION AND ANY AMOUNT FOUND TO HAVE BEEN PAID OUT UPON AN ERRONEOUS DETERMINATION BY GOVERNMENT OFFICERS MAY BE RECOVERED FROM THE RECIPIENT. 1951: REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF MARCH 29. YOUR LETTER WAS ACCOMPANIED BY A POWER OF ATTORNEY EXECUTED BY MR. VASHEY WAS IN THE NATURE OF A SETTLEMENT. YOU ARE ADVISED THAT IN ACCORDANCE WITH SETTLED PRECEDENTS OF LONG STANDING. THE AUTHORITY OF THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL TO REVISE A SETTLEMENT OF A CLAIM BY THIS OFFICE IS INHERENT (CF. IS DERIVED FROM THE STATUTORY MANDATE TO SETTLE AND ADJUST ALL CLAIMS BY OR AGAINST THE UNITED STATES AS DIRECTED BY SECTION 236 OF THE REVISED STATUTES.

B-97870, SEPTEMBER 6, 1951, 31 COMP. GEN. 75

GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE - AUTHORITY TO REOPEN AND REVIEW SETTLEMENTS UNDER SECTION 236, REVISED STATUTES, AS AMENDED, REQUIRING THAT ALL CLAIMS BY AND AGAINST THE UNITED STATES BE SETTLED AND ADJUSTED IN THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE, THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL HAS INHERENT AUTHORITY TO REVISE A SETTLEMENT AND THEREFORE, UPON REQUEST BY A CLAIMANT FOR REVIEW OF A SETTLEMENT THE ENTIRE AMOUNT PROPERLY MAY BE REOPENED FOR RECONSIDERATION AND ANY AMOUNT FOUND TO HAVE BEEN PAID OUT UPON AN ERRONEOUS DETERMINATION BY GOVERNMENT OFFICERS MAY BE RECOVERED FROM THE RECIPIENT.

ASSISTANT COMPTROLLER GENERAL YATES TO GEORGE J. ROBERTAZZI, SEPTEMBER 6, 1951:

REFERENCE IS MADE TO YOUR LETTER OF MARCH 29, 1951, THE PERTINENT PART OF WHICH, IN EFFECT, REQUESTS FURTHER CONSIDERATION OF OFFICE DECISION DATED FEBRUARY 20, 1951, B-97870, CONCERNING THE INDEBTEDNESS OF MR. JEREMIAH W. VASHEY, JR., BY VIRTUE OF AN ERRONEOUS PAYMENT TO HIM OF $300 PURSUANT TO CLAIMS DIVISION SETTLEMENT DATED JUNE 12, 1950. YOUR LETTER WAS ACCOMPANIED BY A POWER OF ATTORNEY EXECUTED BY MR. VASHEY ON MAY 11, 1950.

YOUR LETTER CONTAINS NO FACTS OR CIRCUMSTANCES NOT PREVIOUSLY CONSIDERED AND, HENCE, YOUR REQUEST DOES NOT WARRANT OR JUSTIFY A DIFFERENT CONCLUSION THAN THAT REACHED IN THE DECISION OF FEBRUARY 20, 1951. HOWEVER, YOU NOW QUESTION THE AUTHORITY OF THIS OFFICE TO REOPEN THE SETTLEMENT OF JUNE 12, 1950, AND IN THAT CONNECTION YOU STATE--- "* * * IN VIEW OF THE FACT THAT THE MONEY FORWARDED TO MR. VASHEY WAS IN THE NATURE OF A SETTLEMENT, YOUR DEMAND FOR A REMITTANCE APPEARS TO BE UNFOUNDED.'

YOU ARE ADVISED THAT IN ACCORDANCE WITH SETTLED PRECEDENTS OF LONG STANDING, THE AUTHORITY OF THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL TO REVISE A SETTLEMENT OF A CLAIM BY THIS OFFICE IS INHERENT (CF. MORGAN V. HINES, (1940 D.C. APPEALS) 113 F.2D 849), AND IS DERIVED FROM THE STATUTORY MANDATE TO SETTLE AND ADJUST ALL CLAIMS BY OR AGAINST THE UNITED STATES AS DIRECTED BY SECTION 236 OF THE REVISED STATUTES, AS AMENDED, 31 U.S.C. 71. SEE IN THIS CONNECTION MCELRATH V. UNITED STATES, 102 U.S. 426.

THERE CAN BE NO DOUBT THAT THE REOPENING AND REVISION OF THE SETTLEMENT WAS NOT ONLY AUTHORIZED BUT REQUIRED IN RESPONSE TO THE SPECIFIC REQUEST OF MR. VASHEY, DATED AUGUST 4, 1950, FOR REVIEW THEREOF, WHICH SUBJECTED THE WHOLE ACCOUNT TO REVISION IF ERROR BE FOUND, REGARDLESS OF WHETHER SUCH REVISION BE IN FAVOR OF THE CLAIMANT OR THE GOVERNMENT. THE COURTS OF THE UNITED STATES DEFINITELY HAVE ESTABLISHED THE RULE THAT MONEY PAID OUT UPON AN ERRONEOUS DETERMINATION BY OFFICERS OR AGENTS OF THE GOVERNMENT, WHETHER WITH OR WITHOUT JURISDICTION OF THE PARTICULAR SUBJECT MATTER, MAY BE RECOVERED BACK FROM THE RECIPIENT. UNITED STATES V. GUDEWICZ (1942), 45 F.1SUPP. 787, FOLLOWING UNITED STATES V. BENTLEY, 107 F.2D 382, CITING UNITED STATES V. BURCHARD, 125 U.S. 176; UNITED STATES V. STAHL, 151 U.S. 366; WISCONSIN CENTRAL R.R. CO. V. UNITED STATES, 164 U.S. 190, AND UNITED STATES V. WURTS, 303 U.S. 414.

IN THE LIGHT OF THE RULE OF LAW THUS ESTABLISHED, THE SETTLEMENT WAS LAWFULLY REOPENED AND THE RIGHT OF THE GOVERNMENT TO DEMAND AND RECOVER BACK THE ERRONEOUS PAYMENT MADE TO THE CLAIMANT SEEMS TO BE UNQUESTIONED. 22 COMP. GEN. 952. MR. VASHEY SHOULD MAKE ARRANGEMENTS TO REMIT FORTHWITH THE AMOUNT OF THE OVERPAYMENT AS REQUESTED IN THE SAID DECISION OF FEBRUARY 20, 1951, IN ORDER THAT MORE FORMAL ACTION WILL NOT BE REQUIRED.