B-204173 L/M, JAN 11, 1982, OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL

B-204173 L/M: Jan 11, 1982

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DIGEST: CASHIER'S FAILURE TO LOCK SAFE CONTAINING IMPREST FUNDS CONSTITUTES NEGLIGENCE AND SUCH NEGLIGENCE WAS THE PROXIMATE CAUSE OF LOSS OF THE FUNDS. FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION: THIS IS IN RESPONSE TO YOUR LETTER REQUESTING RELIEF IN THE AMOUNT OF $855.88 ON BEHALF OF SHIRLEY CLEMENS. RELIEF IS DENIED FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS. THE CASH BOX WAS RECOVERED ABOUT AN HOUR LATER BEHIND A DOOR LEADING INTO A TELEPHONE EQUIPMENT ROOM. THE CASH BOX WAS FOUND OPEN WITH ALL THE CURRENCY MISSING. CALIFORNIA WERE NOTIFIED. THE INVESTIGATION FAILED TO IDENTIFY WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE THEFT. SEC. 82A-1 (1976) WHICH PROVIDES IN PERTINENT PART AS FOLLOWS: "THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE IS AUTHORIZED.

B-204173 L/M, JAN 11, 1982, OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL

DIGEST: CASHIER'S FAILURE TO LOCK SAFE CONTAINING IMPREST FUNDS CONSTITUTES NEGLIGENCE AND SUCH NEGLIGENCE WAS THE PROXIMATE CAUSE OF LOSS OF THE FUNDS. THEREFORE, GAO CANNOT RELIEVE CASHIER OF LIABILITY UNDER 31 U.S.C. SEC. 82A-1.

MR. F. P. CANTRELL, CHIEF, ACCOUNTING DIVISION WESTERN REGION, FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION:

THIS IS IN RESPONSE TO YOUR LETTER REQUESTING RELIEF IN THE AMOUNT OF $855.88 ON BEHALF OF SHIRLEY CLEMENS, IMPREST FUND CLASS "B" CASHIER, FAA DENVER (HUB) AIRWAY FACILITIES SECTOR, AURORA, COLORADO. RELIEF IS DENIED FOR THE FOLLOWING REASONS.

THE RECORD INDICATES THAT ON OCTOBER 19, 1979, AT APPROXIMATELY 11:00 A.M., MS. CLEMENS RETURNED TO HER WORK AREA AFTER CASHING AN IMPREST FUND CHECK AT A NEARBY BANK. AROUND 11:10 A.M., A TECHNICIAN APPROACHED HER TO OBTAIN SOME MONEY. SHE WENT TO THE SAFE LOCATED A FEW FEET FROM HER DESK IN AN ADJACENT ROOM AND OPENED IT. MS. CLEMENS REMOVED AND UNLOCKED THE CASH BOX CONTAINING THE IMPREST FUND. AFTER THE TRANSACTION, SHE LOCKED THE CASH BOX AND PLACED IT BACK IN THE SAFE. SHE CLOSED THE SAFE'S DOOR BUT DID NOT LOCK IT, INTENDING TO WORK WITH THE CASH BOX AFTER LUNCH. SHE HAD NOT YET PUT ALL THE CASH FROM THE EARLIER BANK TRANSACTION IN THE CASH BOX. SHE ATE HER LUNCH AT A TABLE NEAR HER DESK WITH HER BACK TO THE ROOM CONTAINING THE SAFE. THREE ELECTRONICS TECHNICIANS HAD BRIEFLY CONVERSED WITH HER WHILE SHE ATE HER LUNCH. AT APPROXIMATELY 11:30 A.M. SHE WENT BACK TO THE SAFE AND DISCOVERED THE CASH BOX MISSING. THE CASH BOX WAS RECOVERED ABOUT AN HOUR LATER BEHIND A DOOR LEADING INTO A TELEPHONE EQUIPMENT ROOM. THE CASH BOX WAS FOUND OPEN WITH ALL THE CURRENCY MISSING, LEAVING $11.77 IN COINS. AN AUDIT REVEALED A LOSS OF $855.88.

THE AURORA POLICE DEPARTMENT, FEDERAL PROTECTIVE SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION-OFFICE OF INSPECTOR GENERAL (DOT-OIG), UNITED STATES SECRET SERVICE, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, AND REGIONAL DISBURSING OFFICER IN SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA WERE NOTIFIED. DOT-OIG INVESTIGATED THE CASE. THE INVESTIGATION FAILED TO IDENTIFY WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE THEFT.

RELIEF HAS BEEN REQUESTED UNDER 31 U.S.C. SEC. 82A-1 (1976) WHICH PROVIDES IN PERTINENT PART AS FOLLOWS:

"THE GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE IS AUTHORIZED, AFTER CONSIDERATION OF THE PERTINENT FINDINGS AND IF IN CONCURRENCE WITH THE DETERMINATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE HEAD OF THE DEPARTMENT OR INDEPENDENT ESTABLISHMENT CONCERNED, TO RELIEVE ANY DISBURSING OR OTHER ACCOUNTABLE OFFICER OR AGENT *** CHARGED WITH RESPONSIBILITY ON ACCOUNT OF PHYSICAL LOSS OR DEFICIENCY OF GOVERNMENT FUNDS, *** IF THE HEAD OF THE DEPARTMENT OR INDEPENDENT ESTABLISHMENT DETERMINES (1) THAT SUCH LOSS OR DEFICIENCY OCCURRED WHILE SUCH OFFICER OR AGENT WAS ACTING IN THE DISCHARGE OF HIS OFFICIAL DUTIES, OR THAT SUCH LOSS OR DEFICIENCY OCCURRED BY REASON OF THE ACT OR OMISSION OF A SUBORDINATE OF SUCH OFFICER OR AGENT; AND (2) THAT SUCH LOSS OR DEFICIENCY OCCURRED WITHOUT FAULT OR NEGLIGENCE ON THE PART OF SUCH OFFICER OR AGENT. ***"

IT HAS BEEN ADMINISTRATIVELY DETERMINED THAT THE IMPREST CASHIER WAS ACTING IN THE DISCHARGE OF HER OFFICIAL DUTY WITHOUT NEGLIGENCE OR FAULT ON HER PART OR ANY SUBORDINATE CASHIER. WE CANNOT CONCUR IN THIS DETERMINATION. AN ACCOUNTABLE OFFICER IS HELD TO A HIGH STANDARD OF CARE WITH RESPECT TO THE FUND WITH WHICH HE OR SHE IS CHARGED. SEE B-188733, MAY 19, 1980. ALTHOUGH MS. CLEMENS LEFT THE SAFE UNATTENDED FOR ONLY TWENTY MINUTES AND SHE WAS IN CLOSE PROXIMITY TO THE SAFE, IT WAS NEVERTHELESS NEGLIGENT OF HER TO LEAVE THE SAFE UNLOCKED AND UNATTENDED WHILE SHE WENT TO LUNCH. SEE B-199790, AUGUST 26, 1980; B-188733, JANUARY 17, 1980. A REASONABLY PRUDENT PERSON WOULD HAVE, UNDER THE CIRCUMSTANCES, LOCKED THE SAFE EVEN IF HE OR SHE WAS LEAVING THE SAFE UNATTENDED FOR ONLY A SHORT PERIOD OF TIME. SEE B-183559, AUGUST 28, 1975. MS. CLEMENS' NEGLIGENCE BY LEAVING THE SAFE UNLOCKED AND UNATTENDED WAS THE PROXIMATE CAUSE OF THE LOSS AND THE RECORD INDICATES NO BASIS TO CONCLUDE OTHERWISE. ACCORDINGLY, RELIEF IS DENIED.

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