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DIGEST: RELIEF IS GRANTED ARMY FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING OFFICIAL UNDER 31 U.S.C. 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. THE ROLE OF MAJ FAULKENBERRY IN ISSUING THE SECOND CHECK WAS THAT OF CERTIFYING OFFICIAL. "(1) THE CERTIFICATION WAS BASED ON OFFICIAL RECORDS AND THE OFFICIAL DID NOT KNOW. BY REASONABLE DILIGENCE AND INQUIRY COULD NOT HAVE DISCOVERED. IT APPEARS IN THIS CASE THAT THESE CRITERIA HAVE BEEN MET. AS FAR AS THE ARMY CERTIFYING OFFICIAL IS CONCERNED.

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B-220951, JAN 6, 1986, OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL

DIGEST: RELIEF IS GRANTED ARMY FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING OFFICIAL UNDER 31 U.S.C. SEC. 3528 FROM LIABILITY FOR CERTIFICATION OF IMPROPER PAYMENT RESULTING FROM PAYEE'S NEGOTIATION OF BOTH ORIGINAL ISSUED ARMY INSTRUMENT 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.

BRIGADIER GENERAL T. L. ARNDT:

ACTING COMMANDER

U.S. ARMY FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING

CENTER

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA 46249

THIS RESPONDS TO YOUR REQUEST OF OCTOBER 22, 1985, THAT WE RELIEVE MAJOR (MAJ) O. A. FAULKENBERRY, FINANCE CORPS, FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING OFFICER, U.S. ARMY AVIATION CENTER AND FORT RUCKER, FORT RUCKER, ALABAMA, UNDER 31 U.S.C. SEC. 3528 FOR AN IMPROPER PAYMENT FOR ADVANCE TRAVEL OF A $138 CHECK PAYABLE TO MS. CAROL L. SONNIER. FOR THE REASONS STATED BELOW, RELIEF IS GRANTED.

THE LOSS RESULTED WHEN THE PAYEE NEGOTIATED BOTH AN ORIGINAL ARMY ISSUED CHECK AND A TREASURY-ISSUED REPLACEMENT INSTRUMENT. THE ROLE OF MAJ FAULKENBERRY IN ISSUING THE SECOND CHECK WAS THAT OF CERTIFYING OFFICIAL. SEE AR-103, PARA. 4-143(B); SEE ALSO, B-215380, ET AL., JULY 23, 1984.

THIS OFFICE HAS AUTHORITY UNDER 31 U.S.C. SEC. 3528 TO RELIEVE A CERTIFYING OFFICER 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).

IT APPEARS IN THIS CASE THAT THESE CRITERIA HAVE BEEN MET. AS FAR AS THE ARMY CERTIFYING OFFICIAL IS CONCERNED, 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 FAULKENBERRY.

FINALLY, AS YOU ARE AWARE, THE SETTLEMENT OF A DISBURSING OFFICER'S ACCOUNT DOES NOT RELIEVE THE AGENCY OF ITS RESPONSIBILITY TO UNDERTAKE COLLECTION ACTION ON THE DEBT CREATED BY THE IMPROPER PAYMENT. THE ARMY IS NOW PURSUING COLLECTION ACTIVITY IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE FEDERAL CLAIMS COLLECTION ACT. HOWEVER, WE NOTE FROM YOUR SUBMISSION THAT IT TOOK THE ARMY A YEAR TO REFER THIS MATTER TO YOUR COLLECTION DIVISION ONCE NOTICE OF THE LOSS WAS RECEIVED FROM TREASURY. AS WE INDICATED IN OUR LETTER TO YOU, B-220836, NOVEMBER 29, 1985, WE BELIEVE THE ARMY SHOULD BE ABLE TO NOTIFY ITS COLLECTION DIVISION OF A LOSS WITHIN 3 MONTHS OF ITS RECEIPT OF THE DEBIT VOUCHER.

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