A-58695, DECEMBER 27, 1935, 15 COMP. GEN. 560

A-58695: Dec 27, 1935

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ATTACHES TO THE CERTIFYING OFFICER INVOLVED IN A PARTICULAR TRANSACTION WHO IS BY LAW DULY AUTHORIZED TO INCUR OBLIGATIONS ON BEHALF OF THE UNITED STATES. MAY NOT BE APPORTIONED AMONG SUBORDINATE EMPLOYEES WHO ARE NOT SUCH CERTIFYING OFFICERS ON THE BASIS OF AN ADMINISTRATIVE DETERMINATION OF RELATIVE RESPONSIBILITY. 15 COMP. AS FOLLOWS: I HAVE YOUR DECISION A-58695. THE FURTHER QUESTION PRESENTS ITSELF AS TO WHETHER THE TERM "CERTIFYING OFFICER" IS TO BE STRICTLY CONSTRUED OR BROADLY INTERPRETED. YOU STATE: "* * * IT IS REQUESTED THAT YOU TAKE THE NECESSARY STEPS TO COLLECT THE AMOUNT OF THE UNLAWFUL PAYMENT. IT IS ASSUMED FROM THE ABOVE QUOTATION FROM YOUR COMMUNICATION THAT IN ANY CASE IN WHICH AN IMPROPER PAYMENT IS MADE AND FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY TO AN EMPLOYEE OF THE GOVERNMENT ATTACHES UNDER EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 6166.

A-58695, DECEMBER 27, 1935, 15 COMP. GEN. 560

CERTIFYING OFFICERS - LIABILITY - VETERANS' ADMINISTRATION LIABILITY TO THE UNITED STATES FOR IMPROPER PAYMENTS UNDER EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 6166, DATED JUNE 10, 1933, ATTACHES TO THE CERTIFYING OFFICER INVOLVED IN A PARTICULAR TRANSACTION WHO IS BY LAW DULY AUTHORIZED TO INCUR OBLIGATIONS ON BEHALF OF THE UNITED STATES, AND MAY NOT BE APPORTIONED AMONG SUBORDINATE EMPLOYEES WHO ARE NOT SUCH CERTIFYING OFFICERS ON THE BASIS OF AN ADMINISTRATIVE DETERMINATION OF RELATIVE RESPONSIBILITY. 15 COMP. GEN. 362 AMPLIFIED.

COMPTROLLER GENERAL MCCARL TO THE ADMINISTRATOR OF VETERANS' AFFAIRS, DECEMBER 27, 1935:

THERE HAS BEEN RECEIVED YOUR LETTER OF NOVEMBER 21, 1935, AS FOLLOWS:

I HAVE YOUR DECISION A-58695, DATED OCTOBER 31, 1935, AND THE FURTHER QUESTION PRESENTS ITSELF AS TO WHETHER THE TERM "CERTIFYING OFFICER" IS TO BE STRICTLY CONSTRUED OR BROADLY INTERPRETED. IN YOUR LETTER OF FEBRUARY 27, 1935, YOU STATE:

"* * * IT IS REQUESTED THAT YOU TAKE THE NECESSARY STEPS TO COLLECT THE AMOUNT OF THE UNLAWFUL PAYMENT, TO WIT, $91.88, FROM THE CERTIFYING OFFICER OR OFFICERS RESPONSIBLE THEREFOR * * *.'

IT IS ASSUMED FROM THE ABOVE QUOTATION FROM YOUR COMMUNICATION THAT IN ANY CASE IN WHICH AN IMPROPER PAYMENT IS MADE AND FINANCIAL RESPONSIBILITY TO AN EMPLOYEE OF THE GOVERNMENT ATTACHES UNDER EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 6166, DATED JUNE 10, 1933, BECAUSE OF SUCH UNAUTHORIZED PAYMENT, THE HEAD OF THE ESTABLISHMENT INVOLVED IS POSSESSED OF AUTHORITY TO FIND WHAT EMPLOYEE OR EMPLOYEES ARE RESPONSIBLE AND TO MAKE THE ASSESSMENT ACCORDINGLY, AND IN THE CASE OF MORE THAN ONE EMPLOYEE TO FIX THE DIVISION ACCORDING TO THE RELATIVE RESPONSIBILITY. THIS WOULD APPEAR TO BE THE ONLY EQUITABLE AND JUST MANNER IN WHICH TO HANDLE SUCH MATTERS AS TO HOLD THE PERSON WHO CERTIFIES THE VOUCHER ONLY RESPONSIBLE WOULD ON MANY OCCASIONS PENALIZE AN INNOCENT EMPLOYEE AND PERMIT THE RESPONSIBLE ONE TO GO FREE, BECAUSE THE CERTIFYING OFFICER IN MOST INSTANCES MUST RELY UPON THE REPORTS AND ACTIONS OF OTHERS, AS IT WOULD BE QUITE IMPRACTICABLE IN ORDINARY CASES FOR THE PERSON CERTIFYING THE VOUCHER TO ASCERTAIN ALL THE FACTS FOR HIMSELF WITHOUT THE AID OF AND RELIANCE UPON OTHERS.

WILL YOU PLEASE ADVISE ME AS TO WHETHER OR NOT THE ABOVE PROCEDURE MEETS WITH YOUR APPROVAL?

THE VOUCHER UPON WHICH THE ERRONEOUS PAYMENT WAS MADE IN THIS CASE IS CERTIFIED BY TWO EMPLOYEES, (1) M. O-CONNOR, THE REIMBURSEMENT CLAIMS ADJUDICATOR; AND (2) M. THORNTON, THE REIMBURSEMENT CLAIMS AUTHORIZER OF THE ADJUDICATION SERVICE. THE REIMBURSEMENT CLAIMS ADJUDICATOR CERTIFIED AS FOLLOWS:

PURSUANT TO THE ABOVE FACTS THE ABOVE-NAMED PAYEE IS ENTITLED TO THE AWARD OF $91.88, UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF TITLES II, III, AND/OR IV OF THE WORLD WAR VETERANS' ACT, 1924, AS AMENDED.

THE REIMBURSEMENT CLAIMS AUTHORIZER CERTIFIED AS FOLLOWS:

I, THE UNDERSIGNED, AN OFFICER OF THE VETERANS' ADMINISTRATION, DULY AUTHORIZED UNDER THE PROVISIONS OF SECTION 5 OF THE WORLD WAR VETERANS' ACT, 1924, AS AMENDED, TO MAKE DECISIONS OF QUESTIONS OF FACT AND LAW AFFECTING ANY CLAIMANT TO THE BENEFITS OF TITLES II, III, OR IV OF THE WORLD WAR VETERANS' ACT, 1924, AS AMENDED, DO HEREBY CONSTITUTE, IN PURSUANCE OF SUCH AUTHORITY, THE FOREGOING STATEMENTS AS MY DECISION OF FACT AND LAW.

SECTION 4 OF EXECUTIVE ORDER NO. 6166, DATED JUNE 10, 1933, ISSUED PURSUANT TO THE ACT OF MARCH 3, 1933 (47 STAT. 1517), AS AMENDED BY THE ACT OF MARCH 20, 1933 (48 STAT. 16), ESTABLISHING A CENTRALIZED DISBURSING SYSTEM IN THE TREASURY DEPARTMENT, PROVIDES IN PART AS FOLLOWS:

THE DIVISION OF DISBURSEMENT SHALL DISBURSE MONEYS ONLY UPON THE CERTIFICATION OF PERSONS BY LAW DULY AUTHORIZED TO INCUR OBLIGATIONS UPON BEHALF OF THE UNITED STATES. * * *

IN REFERRING TO THE PROVISION OF THE EXECUTIVE ORDER OF JUNE 10, QUOTED ABOVE, IT WAS STATED IN DECISION OF DECEMBER 29, 1933 (13 COMP. GEN. 326, 329), AS FOLLOWS:

IT WILL BE NOTED THAT UNDER THE PLAIN TERMS OF THIS PROVISION THE DIVISION OF DISBURSEMENT IS AUTHORIZED TO DISBURSE MONEYS ONLY UPON THE CERTIFICATION OF PERSONS "BY LAW AUTHORIZED TO INCUR OBLIGATIONS UPON BEHALF OF THE UNITED STATES.' THEREFORE, WHILE THE QUESTION WOULD APPEAR TO BE FOR CONSIDERATION PRIMARILY BY THE DISBURSING OFFICER TO WHOM A CERTIFIED VOUCHER IS PRESENTED FOR PAYMENT, AND FOR HIS SUBMISSION TO THIS OFFICE FOR DECISION IF IN DOUBT, IT WOULD SEEM CLEAR THAT THE POWER TO CERTIFY AND APPROVE VOUCHERS FOR PAYMENT MAY NOT BE DELEGATED TO ANY PERSON WHO IS NOT "BY LAW DULY AUTHORIZED TO INCUR OBLIGATIONS ON BEHALF OF THE UNITED STATES.' IT IS NOT UNDERSTOOD THAT ANY SUBORDINATE OFFICERS OF YOUR COMMISSION HAVE BEEN BY LAW DULY AUTHORIZED TO INCUR OBLIGATIONS UPON BEHALF OF THE UNITED STATES.

BY SECTION 5 OF THE WORLD WAR VETERANS' ACT, AS AMENDED JULY 3, 1930, 46 STAT. 991, IT IS PROVIDED THAT---

THE DIRECTOR, SUBJECT TO THE GENERAL DIRECTION OF THE PRESIDENT, SHALL ADMINISTER, EXECUTE, AND ENFORCE THE PROVISIONS OF THIS ACT, AND FOR THAT PURPOSE SHALL HAVE FULL POWER AND AUTHORITY TO MAKE RULES AND REGULATIONS, NOT INCONSISTENT WITH THE PROVISIONS OF THIS ACT, WHICH ARE NECESSARY OR APPROPRIATE TO CARRY OUT ITS PURPOSES, AND SHALL DECIDE ALL QUESTIONS ARISING UNDER THIS ACT; AND ALL DECISIONS OF QUESTIONS OF FACT AND LAW AFFECTING ANY CLAIMANT TO THE BENEFITS OF TITLES II, III, OR IV OF THIS ACT SHALL BE CONCLUSIVE EXCEPT AS OTHERWISE PROVIDED HEREIN. ALL OFFICERS AND EMPLOYEES SHALL PERFORM SUCH DUTIES AS MAY BE ASSIGNED THEM BY THE DIRECTOR. ALL OFFICIAL ACTS PERFORMED BY SUCH OFFICERS OR EMPLOYEES SPECIFICALLY DESIGNATED THEREFOR BY THE DIRECTOR SHALL HAVE THE SAME FORCE AND EFFECT AS THOUGH PERFORMED BY THE DIRECTOR IN PERSON. * * *

PURSUANT TO THE PROVISIONS OF THE STATUTE JUST QUOTED, MARION M. THORNTON WAS AUTHORIZED BY ASSISTANT ADMINISTRATORS AUTHORIZATION ORDER NO. 44, DATED NOVEMBER 18, 1932 (THE ORDER IN EFFECT AT THE TIME OF THE ADMINISTRATIVE CERTIFICATION OF THE VOUCHER HERE IN QUESTION/---

TO TAKE FINAL ACTION.

(A) * * *

(B) IN AUTHORIZING PAYMENT OF VOUCHERS COVERING ACCRUED AMOUNTS OF DISABILITY COMPENSATION, DEATH COMPENSATION, EMERGENCY OFFICERS' RETIREMENT PAY AND INSURANCE LESS THAN $1,000.00, AND ACCRUED ADJUSTED COMPENSATION LESS THAN $500.00, DUE THE ESTATES OF DECEASED BENEFICIARIES, FOR WHICH ESTATES NO ADMINISTRATOR HAS BEEN OR WILL BE APPOINTED.

IN VIEW OF THE FOREGOING, IT WOULD APPEAR THAT M. THORNTON IS THE EMPLOYEE "BY LAW DULY AUTHORIZED TO INCUR OBLIGATIONS ON BEHALF OF THE UNITED STATES" IN THE INSTANT CASE WITHIN THE MEANING OF SECTION 4 OF THE EXECUTIVE ORDER OF JUNE 10, 1933, QUOTED IN PART ABOVE, AND UNDER THE PLAIN TERMS OF SAID ORDER, INSOFAR AS THE GOVERNMENT IS CONCERNED, SHE IS THE EMPLOYEE REQUIRED TO REIMBURSE THE GOVERNMENT FOR THE LOSS SUSTAINED ON ACCOUNT OF THE ERRONEOUS PAYMENT IN THIS CASE. WHETHER SHE IS ABLE TO COLLECT FROM SOME SUBORDINATE EMPLOYEE ADMINISTRATIVELY CONSIDERED AS BEING RESPONSIBLE OR FROM THE PERSON TO WHOM THE ERRONEOUS PAYMENT WAS MADE IS A MATTER BETWEEN THEM. THE SAME RULE HAS BEEN STATED REGARDING THE RELATION BETWEEN A DISBURSING OFFICER AND HIS SUBORDINATE. 7 COMP. GEN. 264, 266.

THE UNLAWFUL PAYMENT HERE, $91.88, SHOULD BE COLLECTED FROM THE CERTIFYING OFFICER RESPONSIBLE IN THIS CASE, VIZ, M. THORNTON, AND TRANSMITTED TO THIS OFFICE FOR PROPER DISPOSITION.

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