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RELIEF IS GRANTED ARMY DISBURSING OFFICIAL AND HIS DEPUTY UNDER 31 U.S.C. PROPER PROCEDURES WERE FOLLOWED IN THE ISSUANCE OF THE SUBSTITUTE CHECK. THERE WAS NO INDICATION OF BAD FAITH ON THE PART OF THE DISBURSING OFFICIAL AND HIS DEPUTY. SUBSEQUENT COLLECTION ATTEMPTS ARE BEING PURSUED. WE WILL DENY RELIEF IF ARMY DELAYS MORE THAN 3 MONTHS IN FORWARDING THE DEBT TO ITS COLLECTION DIVISION. REQUEST FOR RELIEF OF ACCOUNTABLE OFFICERS LIABLE FOR IMPROPER PAYMENT SHOULD BE MADE TO GAO WITHIN 2 YEARS AFTER THE DATE THE ACCOUNT IN WHICH THE LOSS OCCURRED IS AVAILABLE TO GAO FOR AUDIT (THAT IS. RELIEF IS GRANTED. BOTH CHECKS WERE IN THE SAME AMOUNT. THE SUBSTITUTE CHECK WAS ISSUED ON THE BASIS OF THE PAYEE'S ALLEGATION THAT THE ORIGINAL CHECK HAS NOT BEEN RECEIVED AND A REQUEST FOR STOP PAYMENT HAD BEEN MADE.

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B-227191, MAY 29, 1987

APPROPRIATIONS/FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT - ACCOUNTABLE OFFICERS - DISBURSING OFFICERS - RELIEF - ILLEGAL/IMPROPER PAYMENTS - SUBSTITUTE CHECKS DIGEST: 1. RELIEF IS GRANTED ARMY DISBURSING OFFICIAL AND HIS DEPUTY UNDER 31 U.S.C. SEC. 3527(C) FROM LIABILITY FOR IMPROPER PAYMENT RESULTING FROM PAYEE'S NEGOTIATION OF BOTH ORIGINAL AND SUBSTITUTE MILITARY CHECKS. PROPER PROCEDURES WERE FOLLOWED IN THE ISSUANCE OF THE SUBSTITUTE CHECK, THERE WAS NO INDICATION OF BAD FAITH ON THE PART OF THE DISBURSING OFFICIAL AND HIS DEPUTY, AND SUBSEQUENT COLLECTION ATTEMPTS ARE BEING PURSUED. HOWEVER, FOR DEBIT VOUCHERS RECEIVED AFTER JUNE 1, 1986, WE WILL DENY RELIEF IF ARMY DELAYS MORE THAN 3 MONTHS IN FORWARDING THE DEBT TO ITS COLLECTION DIVISION. APPROPRIATIONS/FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT - ACCOUNTABLE OFFICERS - RELIEF ILLEGAL/IMPROPER PAYMENTS - AGENCY REQUEST - SUBMISSION TIME PERIODS 2. REQUEST FOR RELIEF OF ACCOUNTABLE OFFICERS LIABLE FOR IMPROPER PAYMENT SHOULD BE MADE TO GAO WITHIN 2 YEARS AFTER THE DATE THE ACCOUNT IN WHICH THE LOSS OCCURRED IS AVAILABLE TO GAO FOR AUDIT (THAT IS, THE DATE THE AGENCY HAS SUBSTANTIALLY COMPLETE ACCOUNTS).

BRIGADIER GENERAL B. W. HALL:

THIS RESPONDS TO YOUR REQUEST OF APRIL 28, 1987, THAT WE RELIEVE LIEUTENANT COLONEL (LTC) W. E. WOOTON, FINANCE CORPS, DSSN 6383, FIANCE AND ACCOUNTING OFFICER, 101ST AIRBORNE DIVISION (AIR ASSAULT) AND FORT CAMPBELL, FORT CAMPBELL, KENTUCKY, AND HIS DEPUTY, MS. J. G. GILBERT, UNDER 31 U.S.C. SEC. 3527(C) FOR AN IMPROPER PAYMENT OF A $250.00 CHECK PAYABLE TO MR. DENNIS M. CORNELIUS. FOR THE REASONS STATED BELOW, RELIEF IS GRANTED.

THE LOSS RESULTED WHEN THE PAYEE NEGOTIATED BOTH THE ORIGINAL AND A SUBSTITUTE CHECK. BOTH CHECKS WERE IN THE SAME AMOUNT. THE SUBSTITUTE CHECK WAS ISSUED ON THE BASIS OF THE PAYEE'S ALLEGATION THAT THE ORIGINAL CHECK HAS NOT BEEN RECEIVED AND A REQUEST FOR STOP PAYMENT HAD BEEN MADE. BOTH CHECKS WERE ISSUED BY THE ARMY UNDER AUTHORITY DELEGATED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF TREASURY. 31 C.F.R. SEC. 245.8.

IT APPEARS THAT THE REQUEST FOR STOP PAYMENT AND THE ISSUANCE OF A SUBSTITUTE CHECK IN THIS CASE WERE WITHIN THE BOUNDS OF DUE CARE AS ESTABLISHED BY ARMY REGULATIONS. SEE AR 37-103, PARAS. 4-161, 4-162, AND 4-164. ALTHOUGH THE SUBSTITUTE CHECK WAS ISSUED MORE THAN 2 MONTHS AFTER THE ORIGINAL, IT APPEARS THAT THE REQUEST FOR STOP PAYMENT WAS MADE WITHIN THE PROPER TIME FRAME. SEE AR 37-103, PARA. 4-164. THERE WAS NO INDICATION OF BAD FAITH ON THE PART OF THE DISBURSING OFFICERS AND IT APPEARS THAT ADEQUATE COLLECTION EFFORTS ARE NOW BEING MADE. ACCORDINGLY, WE GRANT RELIEF.

ALTHOUGH WE HAVE GRANTED RELIEF TO THE DISBURSING OFFICER AND HIS DEPUTY 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. 3527(C). ONCE THE DEBIT VOUCHER WAS RECEIVED FROM TREASURY, IT TOOK ARMY OVER 18 MONTHS TO REFER THE MATTER TO YOUR COLLECTION DIVISION. 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 THIS CASE OCCURRED PRIOR TO THAT DATE, WE WILL NOT DENY RELIEF HERE.

FINALLY, WE NOTE THAT THE GAO POLICY AND PROCEDURES MANUAL FOR THE GUIDANCE OF FEDERAL AGENCIES REQUIRES AGENCIES TO REPORT IMPROPER PAYMENTS TO GAO WITHIN 2 YEARS AFTER THE DATE THE ACCOUNT INVOLVED IS AVAILABLE TO GAO FOR AUDIT (THAT IS, THE DATE THE AGENCY HAS SUBSTANTIALLY COMPLETE ACCOUNTS). 7 GAO POLICY AND PROCEDURES MANUAL SEC. 28.14. IN THIS CASE, THE DEBIT VOUCHER FROM TREASURY WAS RECEIVED IN OCTOBER 1984, BUT YET THE CASE WAS NOT REFERRED TO OUR OFFICE UNTIL APRIL 1987, MORE THAN 2 1/2 YEARS LATER. BY REQUESTING RELIEF FOR IMPROPER PAYMENT WITHIN 2 YEARS AFTER THE LOSS HAD OCCURRED, OUR OFFICE HAS TIME BOTH TO AVOID THE EXPIRATION OF THE 3-YEAR LIMITATION PERIOD AND TO HAVE AN ADEQUATE OPPORTUNITY TO DETERMINE WHETHER RELIEF SHOULD BE GRANTED.

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