Request for Relief From Liability

B-197270: Published: Mar 7, 1980. Publicly Released: Mar 7, 1980.

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A Veterans Administration (VA) official requested that relief from liability be granted to an Alternate Cashier to cover a shortage in the advance account of a Class B Cashier, the Agent Cashier. A VA medical center employed five cashiers, three of whom were alternates serving on a part-time basis as needed. The cashiers had separate cashboxes which were kept in a safe when not in use. Each cashier had a key to his own cashbox. The Agent Cashier had the combination to the safe and the only key to the Cashier's Office. After a shortage of $20 was discovered in the Agent Cashier's advance, the Assistant Cashier revealed that his key would fit the Agent Cashier's box. The installation of new locks was ordered on all five cashboxes, but locks were changed on only three of them. The lock on the box belonging to the Alternate Cashier was not changed. After an absence of 3 weeks, the Alternate Cashier found that $957 in currency was missing from her box. An investigation of the matter included polygraph tests of the cashiers, and indicated that the Assistant Cashier was not telling the truth in stating that he was not involved in the disappearance of the money. He was not prosecuted. When he was removed from his position, a shortage of $145 was discovered in his cash. He repaid this amount. GAO is authorized to grant relief from liability to an accountable officer upon its concurrence with the determination by the agency head that (1) the loss or deficiency occurred while the officer was discharging his official duties, or that it occurred by reason of the act or omission of a subordinate of the officer, and (2) the loss or deficiency occurred without fault or negligence on the part of the agent. The facts clearly indicated that the VA concluded that the loss occurred while the cashier was discharging her official duties. The question of relief turned on the presence or absence of negligence. The fact that the lock on the Alternate Cashier's box was not changed was beyond her control, and there was no indication of negligence attributable to her. Accordingly, GAO concurred with the VA determination that the loss occurred without fault or negligence on the cashier's part and granted relief to her in the amount of $957.

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