B-249372, Aug. 13, 1992

B-249372: Aug 13, 1992

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Embassy was closed. Personnel were evacuated. Safe was looted. Is therefore relieved of liability for the loss under 31 U.S.C. The request was approved and the funds were transferred to a separate safe in the Embassy Cashier's offices. Nor did the Embassy Cashier have access to the funds since Ms. Embassy was a real possibility. The funds of the Embassy Cashier were transferred from the Embassy to a safe within the Ambassador's suite. Was again unsuccessful. Embassy was officially closed. The remaining personnel were evacuated from Somalia. The USAID Mission funds were considered lost. Discussion An accountable officer is strictly liable for a physical loss of funds. 54 Comp.Gen. 113. Any government officer or employee who by reason of his employment is responsible for or has custody of government funds is an accountable officer. 59 Comp.Gen. 113.

B-249372, Aug. 13, 1992

APPROPRIATIONS/FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT Accountable Officers Cashiers Relief Physical losses Theft Due to civil unrest in Somalia, Agency for International Development mission transferred its imprest fund to offices of U.S. Embassy and locked funds in separate safe. Conditions deteriorated and embassy moved its funds but not AID funds because embassy personnel could not open AID safe. Embassy was closed, personnel were evacuated, and safe was looted. AID cashier acted with reasonable care to protect the funds under the circumstances, and is therefore relieved of liability for the loss under 31 U.S.C. Sec.?? 3527(a).

Thomas M. Vapniarek U.S. Agency for International Development Deputy Chief, FM/CARD

Dear Mr. Vapniarek:

This letter responds to your request, dated July 6, 1992, that we relieve Dowlay Ahmed Mohamed, a Class B cashier for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), from personal liability for the physical loss of $32,131.38. For the reasons stated below, we grant the requested relief.

Background

In the latter part of 1990, unrest in Mogadishu, Somalia, became sufficiently dangerous to warrant evacuation of all nonessential U.S. government personnel and all dependents. After the evacuation, the USAID Mission, concerned with security, requested that imprest funds be transferred to the offices of the U.S. Embassy Cashier. The request was approved and the funds were transferred to a separate safe in the Embassy Cashier's offices. The Embassy Cashier had no direct knowledge of the amount of funds in the USAID Mission's safe, nor did the Embassy Cashier have access to the funds since Ms. Mohamed, the USAID Cashier, set the lock with her own combination.

Conditions in Mogadishu further deteriorated, and on January 1, 1991, it became apparent that evacuation of the U.S. Embassy was a real possibility. On that date, the funds of the Embassy Cashier were transferred from the Embassy to a safe within the Ambassador's suite. However, the USAID imprest funds could not be transferred because the Embassy's Acting Regional Security Officer could not open the USAID Mission safe. Several days later, during a lull in the fighting, the Security Officer tried a second time to open the USAID Mission safe, but was again unsuccessful. The U.S. Embassy was officially closed, and on January 6, 1991, the remaining personnel were evacuated from Somalia. Within an hour after the evacuation, looters ransacked the U.S. Embassy compound and, according to the Embassy Budget & Fiscal Officer, the USAID Mission funds were considered lost.

Discussion

An accountable officer is strictly liable for a physical loss of funds. 54 Comp.Gen. 113, 114 (1974). Any government officer or employee who by reason of his employment is responsible for or has custody of government funds is an accountable officer. 59 Comp.Gen. 113, 114 (1979). The General Accounting Office may relieve an accountable officer's liability for a physical loss of funds if it concurs with an agency finding that the loss occurred while the officer was carrying out his or her official duties and was not the result of bad faith or lack of reasonable care. 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3527(a) (1988); See B-209978, July 18, 1983.

As a result of the escalating civil war in Somalia, the USAID cashier, Dowlay Ahmed Mohamed, became concerned about the security of the imprest funds in her care. Thinking to ensure the safety of the funds, she transferred the funds to a safe in the U.S. Embassy and secured the safe with her own combination. Given the escalating fighting in the streets and the impending evacuation of U.S. government personnel, We think Ms. Mohamed acted with sufficient care under the circumstances to protect public funds in her care from loss.

Accordingly, we concur in your conclusion that the loss occurred without the fault or lack of due care of Ms. Mohamed and while acting in the discharge of her official duties. Accordingly, we grant relief for the loss of $32,131.38, $14,504.00 in U.S. dollars and the equivalent of $17,627.38 in local currency.

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