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CERTIFYING OFFICERS - RELIEF - ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS - BASIS FOR RELIEF 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.

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B-221942, FEB 12, 1986, OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL

CERTIFYING OFFICERS - RELIEF - ERRONEOUS PAYMENTS - BASIS FOR RELIEF 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 AND SUBSTITUTE TREASURY CHECK. 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 DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA 46249

THIS RESPONDS TO YOUR REQUEST OF JANUARY 28, 1986, 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 OF A $49.33 CHECK PAYABLE TO MR. XAVIER L. BLAND. 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 AND HAD-- OR PLANNED TO-- CASH BOTH CHECKS. ACCORDINGLY, WE GRANT RELIEF TO MAJ FAULKENBERRY.

ALTHOUGH WE HAVE GRANTED RELIEF, WE ARE CONCERNED WITH THE COLLECTION PROCEDURES ARMY HAS EMPLOYED HERE. THIS CASE IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF WHY YOUR COLLECTION DIVISION SHOULD BE NOTIFIED IMMEDIATELY UPON RECEIPT OF THE DEBIT VOUCHER FROM TREASURY. HAD YOUR COLLECTION DIVISION BEEN NOTIFIED, THERE IS A STRONG POSSIBILITY THAT THE DEBIT COULD HAVE BEEN COLLECTED BY SALARY OFFSET. THE DEBTOR WAS STILL IN THE ARMY WHEN THE DEBIT VOUCHER WAS RECEIVED FROM TREASURY AND WAS A MEMBER OF THE ARMY RESERVES FOR 6 MONTHS DURING THE TIME IT TOOK TO REFER THE MATTER TO YOUR COLLECTION DIVISION.

MAJ FAULKENBERRY RECOGNIZED THAT THE DEBTOR WAS STILL IN THE ARMY WHEN HE RECEIVED THE DEBIT VOUCHER FROM TREASURY. HOWEVER, THE DEBTOR HAD BEEN TRANSFERRED AND MAJ FAULKENBERRY SENT THE DD FORM 139 WHICH AUTHORIZES PAYMENT ADJUSTMENT TO THE WRONG ARMY BASE. IT APPEARS THAT THIS FORM WAS THEN FORWARDED TO USAFAC. HOWEVER, USAFAC DID NOT RECEIVE THE FORM AND AFTER 9 MONTHS OF CHECKING ON THE WHEREABOUTS OF THE MISSING FORM REQUESTED THAT MAJ FAULKENBERRY PURSUE COLLECTION ACTIVITY AND AFTER THIS WAS EXHAUSTED TO REQUEST RELIEF. MAJ FAULKENBERRY SENT ONE COLLECTION LETTER TO THE DEBTOR. THE CASE WAS THEN FORWARDED TO USAFAC FOR RELIEF AND USAFAC REFERRED THE MATTER TO YOUR COLLECTION DIVISION ON JANUARY 6, 1986, OVER TWO YEARS FROM THE ORIGINAL RECEIPT OF THE DEBIT VOUCHER FROM TREASURY.

AS YOU ARE AWARE, THE SETTLEMENT OF THE OFFICER'S ACCOUNT DOES NOT RELIEVE THE AGENCY OF ITS RESPONSIBILITY TO PURSUE DILIGENT COLLECTION ACTIVITY. AS WE HAVE INDICATED, WE THINK THAT DILIGENT COLLECTION PROCEDURES REQUIRE THAT THE ARMY NOTIFY THE COLLECTION DIVISION OF A LOSS WITHIN 3 MONTHS OF ITS RECEIPT OF THE DEBIT VOUCHERS.

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