Skip to Highlights
Highlights

WAS RECODIFIED IN 1966. " WAS INSERTED INTO 5 U.S.C. SINCE NO SUBSTANTIVE CHANGE WAS INTENDED BY THAT CHANGE IN TERMINOLOGY. GAO IS NOT AWARE OF ANYTHING IN THE RECENT AMENDMENTS TO SECTION 5514 WHICH ALTERS THE BROAD SCOPE OF THE ORIGINAL STATUTE. THAT ACT (WHICH AUTHORIZES "AGENCIES" TO COLLECT DEBTS OWED THE UNITED STATES BY MEANS OF SALARY OFFSET) IS APPLICABLE TO LEGISLATIVE BRANCH AGENCIES. WE ALSO NOTED THAT EACH "AGENCY" IS REQUIRED TO PRESCRIBE REGULATIONS. WAS RECODIFIED. NO SUBSTANTIVE CHANGE WAS INTENDED BY THAT CHANGE IN TERMINOLOGY. WE ARE AWARE OF NOTHING IN THE LEGISLATIVE HISTORY OF THE RECENT AMENDMENTS TO SECTION 5514 THAT WOULD INDICATE CONGRESSIONAL INTENT TO ALTER THE BROAD SCOPE OF THE AUTHORITY CONFERRED BY THE ORIGINAL STATUTE.

View Decision

B-217402, JUN 10, 1985, OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL

DEBT COLLECTIONS - DEBT COLLECTIONS ACT OF 1982 - APPLICABILITY DIGEST: WHEN TITLE 5 OF THE U.S.C. WAS RECODIFIED IN 1966, THE TERM "AGENCY," WAS INSERTED INTO 5 U.S.C. SEC. 5514 IN PLACE OF THE PHRASE "SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT ***, OR THE HEAD OF THE AGENCY OR INDEPENDENT ESTABLISHMENT." SINCE NO SUBSTANTIVE CHANGE WAS INTENDED BY THAT CHANGE IN TERMINOLOGY, AND GAO IS NOT AWARE OF ANYTHING IN THE RECENT AMENDMENTS TO SECTION 5514 WHICH ALTERS THE BROAD SCOPE OF THE ORIGINAL STATUTE, THAT ACT (WHICH AUTHORIZES "AGENCIES" TO COLLECT DEBTS OWED THE UNITED STATES BY MEANS OF SALARY OFFSET) IS APPLICABLE TO LEGISLATIVE BRANCH AGENCIES, SUCH AS THE GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE.

MR. MARK C. CRAMER: GENERAL COUNSEL U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE WASHINGTON, D.C. 20020

THIS RESPONDS TO YOUR LETTER OF DECEMBER 11, 1984, IN WHICH YOU REQUESTED GAO'S VIEWS ON THE APPLICABILITY OF 5 U.S.C. SEC. 5514 (AS AMENDED BY SECTION 5 OF THE DEBT COLLECTION ACT OF 1982, PUB. L. NO. 97 365, 96 STAT. 1749, 1751-52) TO THE COLLECTION, BY SALARY OFFSET, OF DEBTS OWED THE UNITED STATES BY EMPLOYEES OF LEGISLATIVE BRANCH AGENCIES SUCH AS THE U.S. GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE. YOUR QUESTION AROSE AS A RESULT OF THE RESTRICTIVE DEFINITION OF THE TERM "AGENCY" CONTAINED IN THE REGULATIONS PROMULGATED BY THE OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT (OPM) TO IMPLEMENT THE REVISED 5 U.S.C. SEC. 5514. ON JANUARY 18, 1985, WE SOLICITED COMMENTS FROM OPM CONCERNING YOUR QUESTION.

IN OUR LETTER TO OPM, WE NOTED THAT SECTION 5514 AUTHORIZES EACH "AGENCY" TO USE SALARY OFFSET TO COLLECT DEBTS OWED THE UNITED STATES BY ITS EMPLOYEES. 5 U.S.C. SEC. 5514(A)(1). WE ALSO NOTED THAT EACH "AGENCY" IS REQUIRED TO PRESCRIBE REGULATIONS, SUBJECT TO OPM'S APPROVAL, IN ORDER TO CARRY OUT THIS SECTION. 5 U.S.C. SEC. 5514(B)(1). HOWEVER, OPM'S REGULATIONS IMPLEMENTING THIS ACT APPEAR TO DEFINE THE TERM "AGENCY" AS TO EXCLUDE LEGISLATIVE BRANCH AGENCIES. SEE SEC. 550.1103, 49 FED.REG. 27470, 27473 (1984) (TO BE CODIFIED AS 5 C.F.R. SEC. 550.1103).

AS WE OBSERVED IN OUR LETTER TO OPM, SECTION 5514 HAS USED THE TERM "AGENCY" SINCE 1966, WHEN TITLE 5 OF THE U.S.C. WAS RECODIFIED. SEE PUB.L. NO. 89-554, 80 STAT. 477 (1966). THE 1966 RECODIFICATION SUBSTITUTED THE TERM "AGENCY" FOR THE PHRASE "SECRETARY OF THE DEPARTMENT ***, OR THE HEAD OF THE AGENCY OR INDEPENDENT ESTABLISHMENT." S. REP. NO. 1380, 89TH CONG., 2D SESS. 107 (1966). (COMPARE 5 U.S.C. SEC. 5514 (1982) WITH PUB.L. NO. 497, JULY 15, 1954, CH. 509, 68 STAT. 482, THE ORIGINAL ENACTMENT OF 5 U.S.C. SEC. 5514.) NO SUBSTANTIVE CHANGE WAS INTENDED BY THAT CHANGE IN TERMINOLOGY. S. REP. NO. 1380, SUPRA, AT 20-21. WE ARE AWARE OF NOTHING IN THE LEGISLATIVE HISTORY OF THE RECENT AMENDMENTS TO SECTION 5514 THAT WOULD INDICATE CONGRESSIONAL INTENT TO ALTER THE BROAD SCOPE OF THE AUTHORITY CONFERRED BY THE ORIGINAL STATUTE. CF. 34 COMP.GEN. 170, 173 (1954) (NOTING THAT THE ORIGINAL VERSION OF 5 U.S.C. SEC. 5514 WAS NOT RESTRICTED TO THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH).

IN A LETTER DATED APRIL 29, 1985, MR. JOSEPH A. MORRIS, THE GENERAL COUNSEL OF OPM, ADVISED US THAT OPM HAS RECONSIDERED ITS REGULATIONS ON THIS POINT AND AGREES THAT THE DEFINITION OF "AGENCY" CONTAINED IN THOSE REGULATIONS IS TOO NARROW. ACCORDINGLY, OPM IS PROPOSING AN AMENDMENT TO ITS REGULATIONS TO EXPAND THE DEFINITION OF "AGENCY" SO AS TO INCLUDE LEGISLATIVE AND JUDICIAL BRANCH AGENCIES, AS WELL AS EXECUTIVE BRANCH AGENCIES. IN FACT, OPM'S PROPOSED AMENDMENT WAS RECENTLY PUBLISHED IN THE FEDERAL REGISTER. 50 FED.REG. 18267 (APR. 30, 1985).

WE BELIEVE THAT THE FOREGOING INFORMATION ADEQUATELY ANSWERS YOUR INQUIRY. HOWEVER, SHOULD YOU CONTINUE TO HAVE QUESTIONS ON THIS MATTER, PLEASE DO NOT HESITATE TO CONTACT MR. NEILL MARTIN-ROLSKY OF MY STAFF, AT 202-275-5544.

GAO Contacts