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CERTIFYING OFFICERS - RELIEF - ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS - DUPLICATE PAYMENTS DIGEST: RELIEF IS GRANTED ARMY FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING OFFICIAL UNDER 31 U.S.C. 3528 FROM LIABILITY FOR CERTIFICATION OF IMPROPER PAYMENT RESULTING FROM PAYEE'S NEGOTIATION OF BOTH ORIGINAL AND SUBSTITUTE TREASURY CHECKS. THE OFFICER DID NOT KNOW AND BY REASONABLE DILIGENCE AND INQUIRY COULD NOT HAVE DISCOVERED THAT THE PAYEE HAD ACTUALLY RECEIVED BOTH CHECKS AND INTENDED TO CASH BOTH PAYMENT INSTRUMENTS. PROPER PROCEDURES WERE FOLLOWED IN THE CERTIFICATION OF THE SUBSTITUTE CHECK. RELIEF IS GRANTED UNDER 31 U.S.C. SEC. 3528 SINCE THE ROLE OF MAJ WAGNER WAS THAT OF CERTIFYING OFFICIAL RATHER THAN DISBURSING OFFICER. "(1) THE CERTIFICATION WAS BASED ON OFFICIAL RECORDS AND THE OFFICIAL DID NOT KNOW.

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B-215867, NOV 5, 1984, OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL

CERTIFYING OFFICERS - RELIEF - ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS - DUPLICATE PAYMENTS DIGEST: RELIEF IS GRANTED ARMY FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING OFFICIAL UNDER 31 U.S.C. 3528 FROM LIABILITY FOR CERTIFICATION OF IMPROPER PAYMENT RESULTING FROM PAYEE'S NEGOTIATION OF BOTH ORIGINAL AND SUBSTITUTE TREASURY CHECKS. THE OFFICER DID NOT KNOW AND BY REASONABLE DILIGENCE AND INQUIRY COULD NOT HAVE DISCOVERED THAT THE PAYEE HAD ACTUALLY RECEIVED BOTH CHECKS AND INTENDED TO CASH BOTH PAYMENT INSTRUMENTS. PROPER PROCEDURES WERE FOLLOWED IN THE CERTIFICATION OF THE SUBSTITUTE CHECK.

MR. CLYDE E. JEFFCOAT PRINCIPAL DEPUTY COMMANDER U.S. ARMY FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING CENTER INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA 46249

DEAR MR. JEFFCOAT:

THIS RESPONDS TO YOUR REQUEST THAT WE RELIEVE MAJOR (MAJ) T. WAGNER, FINANCE CORPS, FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING OFFICER, U.S. ARMY FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING CENTER, EUROPE, UNDER 31 U.S.C. SEC. 3527(C) FOR AN IMPROPER PAYMENT OF A $436.30 CHECK PAYABLE TO MS. RAMONA R. SHELTON. THIS CASE INVOLVES SUBSTANTIALLY AN IDENTICAL FACT SITUATION TO THOSE WE RECENTLY CONSIDERED IN B-215380, ET AL., JULY 23, 1984-- THE NEGOTIATION BY A PAYEE OF BOTH AN ORIGINAL ARMY-ISSUED CHECK AND A TREASURY-ISSUED SUBSTITUTE OR REPLACEMENT CHECK. FOR THE REASONS DISCUSSED IN B-215380, ID., RELIEF IS GRANTED UNDER 31 U.S.C. SEC. 3528 SINCE THE ROLE OF MAJ WAGNER WAS THAT OF CERTIFYING OFFICIAL RATHER THAN DISBURSING OFFICER.

THIS OFFICE HAS AUTHORITY UNDER 31 U.S.C. SEC. 3528 TO RELIEVE A CERTIFYING OFFICIAL FROM LIABILITY AS FOLLOWS:

"(B) THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL MAY RELIEVE A CERTIFYING OFFICIAL FROM LIABILITY WHEN THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL DECIDES THAT--

"(1) THE CERTIFICATION WAS BASED ON OFFICIAL RECORDS AND THE OFFICIAL DID NOT KNOW, AND BY REASONABLE DILIGENCE AND INQUIRY COULD NOT HAVE DISCOVERED, THE CORRECT INFORMATION ***." 31 U.S.C. SEC. 3528(B)(1).

SINCE WE CONCLUDED IN 62 COMP.GEN., 92, 94-95 THAT THE SECOND CHECK RESULTS, UPON ITS PAYMENT, IN AN ERRONEOUS DISBURSEMENT FOR WHICH THERE IS NO AVAILABLE APPROPRIATION, CERTIFICATION OF THE SECOND CHECK WILL RESULT IN LIABILITY OF THE CERTIFYING OFFICIAL IN THE FIRST INSTANCE UNDER 31 U.S.C. SEC. 3528. AS WE NOTED IN THAT DECISION, THE OFFICIALS INVOLVED IN THE SECOND PAYMENT IN MOST CASES WILL HAVE EXERCISED DUE CARE SINCE THEY ARE REQUIRED TO ISSUE THE SECOND CHECK ON THE BASIS OF THE REPRESENTATION OF NON-RECEIPT. THE LOSS IS BEYOND THEIR CONTROL. SEE B-215830, SUPRA. HOWEVER, 31 U.S.C. SEC. 3528 ALSO ESTABLISHES THE CRITERIA BY WHICH THIS OFFICE MAY GRANT RELIEF FROM LIABILITY AND WE THINK THAT THESE CRITERIA HAVE BEEN MET. AS FAR AS THE ARMY CERTIFYING OFFICIAL IS CONCERNED IN THIS CASE, HE "DID NOT KNOW, AND BY REASONABLE DILIGENCE AND INQUIRY COULD NOT HAVE DISCOVERED, THE CORRECT INFORMATION ***."; THAT IS, THAT THE PAYEE HAD ACTUALLY RECEIVED THE ORIGINAL CHECK WHICH SHE REPORTED MISSING AND HAD-- OR PLANNED TO-- CASH BOTH CHECKS. ACCORDINGLY, WE GRANT RELIEF TO MAJ WAGNER.

AS WE POINTED OUT IN B-215380, SUPRA, THERE ARE AREAS WHERE IMPROVEMENT IS NECESSARY. FOR INSTANCE, HERE, THERE WERE SEVERAL DELAYS IN THE COLLECTION PROCESS. THE SECOND CHECK WAS CASHED BY MS. SHELTON ON JANUARY 27, 1982. HOWEVER, TREASURY DID NOT SEND A DEBIT VOUCHER TO THE ARMY UNTIL JUNE 24, 1982. THE LOSS WAS PROMPTLY REFLECTED IN MAJ WAGNER'S ACCOUNT IN JULY 1982 AND HE IMMEDIATELY BEGAN COLLECTION EFFORTS BY SENDING LETTERS TO MS. SHELTON IN JULY AND SEPTEMBER 1982 AND JANUARY 1983. MAJ WAGNER'S SUCCESSOR, LIEUTENANT COLONEL (LTC) D. J. BEYER ALSO SENT COLLECTION LETTERS TO MS. SHELTON'S HUSBAND, THROUGH HIS COMMANDER, ON AUGUST 1 AND DECEMBER 1, 1983. HOWEVER, IT WAS NOT UNTIL JUNE 27, 1984, THAT THE MATTER WAS FINALLY REFERRED TO THE DESIGNATED COLLECTION REPRESENTATIVE. WE BELIEVE THAT A MORE TIMELY COLLECTION PROCESS IS POSSIBLE.

FINALLY, WE AGAIN REITERATE THE NEED FOR PROPER DOCUMENTATION TO BE PROVIDED WITH YOUR RELIEF REQUEST. HERE, THE REQUEST FOR STOP PAYMENT, SF 1180, THE FORM THAT INCLUDES THE CERTIFICATION NECESSARY FOR THE TREASURY DISBURSEMENT, WAS NOT INCLUDED IN THE FILE. WHILE THE FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING OFFICER IS FINANCIALLY LIABLE FOR THE CERTIFICATIONS HE OR A DESIGNATED CERTIFICATION OFFICER MAKES, IT IS STILL IMPORTANT THAT THIS FORM BE INCLUDED WITH YOUR REQUEST. SEE, 22 AR 37-107.

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