Skip to Highlights
Highlights

REQUEST FOR RELIEF WILL NOT BE DENIED SOLELY ON THE GROUND THAT THE AMOUNT OF A CHECK IS NOT WRITTEN IN WORDS. RELIEF WILL NOT BE DENIED SOLELY ON THE GROUND THAT THE AMOUNT OF A CHECK DOES NOT APPEAR IN WRITTEN WORDS. AN ACCOUNTABLE OFFICER IS LIABLE FOR ANY ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS MADE BY HIM OR BY THOSE UNDER HIS CONTROL. 54 COMP.GEN. 114 (1974). THE GAO IS STATUTORILY AUTHORIZED TO RELIEVE MILITARY DISBURSING OFFICERS FROM LIABILITY FOR A LOSS OR DEFICIENCY RESULTING FROM AN ILLEGAL OR INCORRECT PAYMENT WHEN THE LOSS WAS NOT CAUSED BY THE OFFICIAL'S FAULT OR NEGLIGENCE. 31 U.S.C. IF IT IS DETERMINED BY THE DISBURSING OFFICE THAT A SUBSTANTIAL SAVING IN THE COST OF ISSUING CHECKS WOULD RESULT FROM THE WRITING OF THE MEDIAL AMOUNT IN FIGURES.

View Decision

B-221667, FEB 12, 1986, 65 COMP.GEN. 299

DISBURSING OFFICERS - RELIEF - ELIGIBILITY DETERMINATION IF A DISBURSING OFFICER COMPLIES WITH APPROPRIATE DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY AND SERVICE REGULATIONS, REQUEST FOR RELIEF WILL NOT BE DENIED SOLELY ON THE GROUND THAT THE AMOUNT OF A CHECK IS NOT WRITTEN IN WORDS.

TO: DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY, ACCOUNTING AND AUDIT, DEPARTMENT OF THE AIR FORCE, FEB. 12, 1986:

IN YOUR LETTER OF DECEMBER 30, 1985, TO OUR OFFICE, YOU ASK WHETHER WE INTEND TO DENY RELIEF FOR MILITARY DISBURSING OFFICERS FOUND LIABLE FOR ALTERED PAPER CHECKS IF THE CHECKS DO NOT BEAR THE AMOUNT OF THE CHECK WRITTEN IN WORDS. YOU NOTE THAT A PRIOR DECISION BY OUR OFFICE SUGGESTED THAT ACCOUNTABLE OFFICERS MIGHT BE DENIED RELIEF FROM LIABILITY FOR ALTERED CARD CHECKS WHICH DO NOT SPELL OUT THE AMOUNT IN WORDS. COMP.GEN. 476 (1983). IF A DISBURSING OFFICER COMPLIES WITH APPROPRIATE TREASURY AND SERVICE REGULATIONS, RELIEF WILL NOT BE DENIED SOLELY ON THE GROUND THAT THE AMOUNT OF A CHECK DOES NOT APPEAR IN WRITTEN WORDS.

AN ACCOUNTABLE OFFICER IS LIABLE FOR ANY ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS MADE BY HIM OR BY THOSE UNDER HIS CONTROL. 54 COMP.GEN. 114 (1974). AS YOU KNOW, THE GAO IS STATUTORILY AUTHORIZED TO RELIEVE MILITARY DISBURSING OFFICERS FROM LIABILITY FOR A LOSS OR DEFICIENCY RESULTING FROM AN ILLEGAL OR INCORRECT PAYMENT WHEN THE LOSS WAS NOT CAUSED BY THE OFFICIAL'S FAULT OR NEGLIGENCE. 31 U.S.C. SEC. 3527(C) (1982).

IN THE CITED DECISION, IN WHICH WE RELIEVED ACCOUNTABLE OFFICERS LIABLE FOR ALTERED CARD CHECKS, WE CITED THE ABSENCE OF THE INSCRIPTION OF THE AMOUNT SPELLED OUT IN WORDS ON THE FACE OF THE CHECK, ALONGSIDE THE AMOUNT REPRESENTED IN NUMBERS. WE DID NOT SAY THAT WE WOULD DENY RELIEF ON THIS BASIS AT THAT TIME. WE SUGGESTED THAT ADOPTION OF THIS INSCRIPTION WOULD BE A PRUDENT DETERRENT TO CHECK ALTERATION.

WHILE APPLICABLE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY REGULATIONS RECOMMEND WRITING AMOUNTS OUT IN WORDS, THEY ALSO PROVIDE THAT-- IF IT IS DETERMINED BY THE DISBURSING OFFICE THAT A SUBSTANTIAL SAVING IN THE COST OF ISSUING CHECKS WOULD RESULT FROM THE WRITING OF THE MEDIAL AMOUNT IN FIGURES, EITHER OF THE FOLLOWING FORMS MAY BE USED. "$50 AND 75 CENTS OR $50 AND $50 AND 75/100. TREASURY FINANCIAL MANUAL FOR GUIDANCE OF DEPARTMENT AND AGENCIES, (TFM), 4-5050.45C.

AS YOU NOTED, LAST YEAR THE DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY BEGAN SWITCHING FROM CARD CHECKS TO PAPER CHECKS, AND THE AIR FORCE PLANS TO CONVERT TO PAPER CHECKS THIS YEAR. BECAUSE THE PAPER CHECKS CONTAIN CHEMICAL PROPERTIES DESIGNED TO DETER ALTERATION, THE DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY IS CURRENTLY REVIEWING EXISTING REGULATIONS REGARDING PRINTING THE AMOUNT OF THE CHECK IN WORDS. ONLY NUMBERS ARE PRESENTLY WRITTEN ON TREASURY PAPER CHECKS.

WE HAVE LONG HELD THAT AN ACCOUNTABLE OFFICER WHO CONFORMS TO FEDERAL REGULATIONS DOES NOT ACT NEGLIGENTLY, AND MAY BE RELIEVED OF LIABILITY. SEE, E.G., B-193380, SEPT. 25, 1979. BECAUSE APPLICABLE TREASURY DEPARTMENT REGULATIONS PERMIT USE OF FIGURES WITHOUT WORDS TO INDICATE CHECK AMOUNTS UPON A FINDING THAT SAVINGS WILL RESULT, AN AIR FORCE DISBURSING OFFICER MAY NOT BE DENIED RELIEF SOLELY FOR USING NUMBERS IF AIR FORCE REGULATIONS CONFORM TO THIS STANDARD. IF NUMBERS, ALONE, ARE PRINTED ON CHECKS, NO SPACES SHOULD APPEAR BETWEEN NUMBERS AND LETTERS. TFM 4-5050.45C

GAO Contacts