B-165379, OCT. 18, 1968

B-165379: Oct 18, 1968

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STEWART: WE ARE IN RECEIPT OF A LETTER OF OCTOBER 1. THE AMOUNT OF RENT BEING PAID FOR CERTAIN QUARTERS ON HIS STATION WAS DETERMINED TO BE EXCESSIVE AND THEREAFTER THE OCCUPANTS REQUESTED REIMBURSEMENT FOR THEIR PREVIOUS OVERPAYMENTS. REIMBURSEMENT WAS GRANTED . WONG STATES THAT THE AUTHORITY TO DETERMINE RENTAL AMOUNTS WAS IN THE DIRECTOR. WE HAVE BEEN REQUESTED TO DETERMINE WHETHER REIMBURSEMENT FOR OVERPAYMENTS BEFORE OCTOBER 23. IT WAS HELD THAT EXCEPT TO CORRECT OBVIOUS ERRORS DECREASES IN THE RENT FOR GOVERNMENT OWNED QUARTERS COULD NOT OPERATE RETROACTIVELY SO AS TO ENTITLE OCCUPANTS TO REIMBURSEMENT. WE UNDERSTAND THAT ATTEMPTS TO DETERMINE THE BASIS UPON WHICH THE EARLIER QUARTERS EVALUATION BOARD'S DETERMINATION WAS PREDICATED PROVED UNSUCCESSFUL SINCE NONE OF THE MEMBERS OF THAT BOARD WERE AVAILABLE FOR COMMENT.

B-165379, OCT. 18, 1968

TO DR. WILLIAM H. STEWART:

WE ARE IN RECEIPT OF A LETTER OF OCTOBER 1, 1968, FROM K. K. WONG, M.D., DIRECTOR OF THE PUBLIC HEALTH SERVICE HOSPITAL, DETROIT, MICHIGAN, REQUESTING OUR OPINION AS TO WHETHER CERTAIN VOUCHERS FOR THE REIMBURSEMENT OF CIVIL SERVICE EMPLOYEES FOR "OVER-PAYMENTS" OF RENT MAY PROPERLY BE CERTIFIED.

DR. WONG STATES THAT AS A RESULT OF AN AUDIT BY THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, EDUCATION, AND WELFARE, THE AMOUNT OF RENT BEING PAID FOR CERTAIN QUARTERS ON HIS STATION WAS DETERMINED TO BE EXCESSIVE AND THEREAFTER THE OCCUPANTS REQUESTED REIMBURSEMENT FOR THEIR PREVIOUS OVERPAYMENTS. REIMBURSEMENT WAS GRANTED -- APPARENTLY JANUARY 4, 1968 -- BACK TO OCTOBER 23, 1967. HOWEVER, PRIOR TO THIS DATE DR. WONG STATES THAT THE AUTHORITY TO DETERMINE RENTAL AMOUNTS WAS IN THE DIRECTOR, BUREAU OF HEALTH SERVICES. BECAUSE THAT BUREAU HAS BEEN DISSOLVED, WE HAVE BEEN REQUESTED TO DETERMINE WHETHER REIMBURSEMENT FOR OVERPAYMENTS BEFORE OCTOBER 23, 1967, WOULD BE PROPER.

IN 33 COMP. GEN. 174 (COPY ENCLOSED), WHICH WE CONSIDER TO BE DETERMINATIVE OF THE QUESTION PRESENTED IN THIS CASE, IT WAS HELD THAT EXCEPT TO CORRECT OBVIOUS ERRORS DECREASES IN THE RENT FOR GOVERNMENT OWNED QUARTERS COULD NOT OPERATE RETROACTIVELY SO AS TO ENTITLE OCCUPANTS TO REIMBURSEMENT. WE UNDERSTAND THAT ATTEMPTS TO DETERMINE THE BASIS UPON WHICH THE EARLIER QUARTERS EVALUATION BOARD'S DETERMINATION WAS PREDICATED PROVED UNSUCCESSFUL SINCE NONE OF THE MEMBERS OF THAT BOARD WERE AVAILABLE FOR COMMENT. HENCE, IT CANNOT BE DETERMINED WHETHER THE HIGHER RENTAL RATES FIXED BY THAT BOARD WERE BASED UPON A JUDGMENTAL DETERMINATION DIFFERING FROM THAT OF THE LATER BOARD OR RESULTED FROM A MANIFEST ADMINISTRATIVE ERROR WHICH COULD BE CORRECTED RETROACTIVELY. IN THE ABSENCE OF A CLEAR SHOWING THAT THE HIGHER RATES RESULTED FROM AN UNINTENDED ERROR OR MISTAKE THERE IS NO PROPER BASIS FOR CERTIFYING THE VOUCHERS FOR PAYMENT.

IN VIEW OF THE UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCES HERE INVOLVED AND TAKING INTO CONSIDERATION THE RELATIVELY SMALL AMOUNTS ALREADY REFUNDED TO THE INDIVIDUALS IN QUESTION, OUR OFFICE WILL NOT INSIST UPON THE RECOVERY OF SUCH REFUNDS.

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