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APPROPRIATIONS/FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT - ACCOUNTABLE OFFICERS - CERTIFYING OFFICERS - RELIEF - ILLEGAL/IMPROPER PAYMENTS - SUBSTITUTE CHECKS 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 AND ADEQUATE COLLECTION EFFORTS ARE NOW BEING MADE. WE WILL DENY RELIEF IF THE FINANCE OFFICER DELAYS MORE THAN 3 MONTHS IN FORWARDING THE DEBT TO ARMY'S COLLECTION DIVISION. RELIEF IS GRANTED. THE ROLE OF LTC BEYER IN ISSUING THE SECOND CHECK WAS THAT OF CERTIFYING OFFICIAL.

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B-226882, MAY 13, 1987, OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL

APPROPRIATIONS/FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT - ACCOUNTABLE OFFICERS - CERTIFYING OFFICERS - RELIEF - ILLEGAL/IMPROPER PAYMENTS - SUBSTITUTE CHECKS 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 BOTH AN ORIGINAL ISSUED ARMY INSTRUMENT AND THE 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 AND ADEQUATE COLLECTION EFFORTS ARE NOW BEING MADE. HOWEVER, FOR CASES INVOLVING NOTICES OF LOSSES RECEIVED AFTER JUNE 1, 1986, WHERE THE PAYEE HAS LEFT THE ARMY OR ITS EMPLOY, WE WILL DENY RELIEF IF THE FINANCE OFFICER DELAYS MORE THAN 3 MONTHS IN FORWARDING THE DEBT TO ARMY'S COLLECTION DIVISION.

BRIGADIER GENERAL B. W. HALL:

THIS RESPONDS TO YOUR REQUEST OF APRIL 20, 1987, THAT WE RELIEVE LIEUTENANT COLONEL (LTC) D. J. BEYER, FINANCE CORPS, DSSN 5577, FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING OFFICER, U.S. ARMY FINANCE AND ACCOUNTING CENTER, EUROPE, UNDER 31 U.S.C. SEC. 3528 FOR AN IMPROPER PAYMENT OF $281.02 CHECK PAYABLE TO MS. SHELLY A. ILDERTON. 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 LTC BEYER 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 FOR AN ERRONEOUS CERTIFICATION IF 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. IN ADDITION, THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL MAY DENY RELIEF IF HE DETERMINES THAT A DILIGENT EFFORT TO COLLECT THE OVERPAYMENT WAS NOT MADE.

IT APPEARS IN THIS CASE THAT THESE CRITERIA HAVE BEEN MET. AS FAR AS THE ARMY CERTIFYING OFFICIAL WAS 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. IT ALSO APPEARS THAT ADEQUATE COLLECTION EFFORTS ARE NOW BEING MADE. ACCORDINGLY, WE GRANT RELIEF.

ALTHOUGH WE HAVE GRANTED RELIEF TO THE CERTIFYING OFFICER IN THIS CASE, WE DO NOT BELIEVE THAT THE ARMY'S COLLECTION PROCEDURES, TAKEN TOGETHER, MEET THE DILIGENT CLAIMS COLLECTION REQUIREMENT OF 31 U.S.C. SEC. 3528. ONCE THE DEBIT VOUCHER WAS RECEIVED BY THE FINANCE OFFICER IT TOOK ARMY ALMOST 20 MONTHS TO REFER THE MATTER TO YOUR COLLECTION DIVISION. AS WE PREVIOUSLY INDICATED TO YOU, FOR CASES INVOLVING NOTICES OF LOSSES RECEIVED AFTER JUNE 1, 1986, WHERE THE PAYEE HAS LEFT THE ARMY OR ITS EMPLOY, WE WILL NO LONGER GRANT RELIEF IF ARMY DELAYS MORE THAN 3 MONTHS IN FORWARDING THE DEBT TO YOUR COLLECTION DIVISION. HOWEVER, SINCE THE NOTICE OF LOSS FROM TREASURY WAS RECEIVED PRIOR TO THAT DATE, WE WILL NOT DENY RELIEF HERE.

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