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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 in each instance the payee had actually received both checks and intended to cash both payment instruments. Proper procedures were followed in the certification of the substitute checks and subsequent collection attempts are being pursued. We will no longer grant relief if Army delays more than 3 months in forwarding the debt to your collection division. Relief is granted. Nelson in issuing the second check was that of a certifying official.

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B-227793, Aug 3, 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 two improper payments resulting in each case from the payee's negotiation of both original Army- issued instrument and substitute Treasury check. The officer did not know and by reasonable diligence and inquiry could not have discovered that in each instance the payee had actually received both checks and intended to cash both payment instruments. Proper procedures were followed in the certification of the substitute checks and subsequent collection attempts are being pursued. However, for cases involving notices of loss 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.

Brigadier General B. W. Hall:

This responds to your request of July 20, 1987, that we relieve Colonel (Col.) W. J. Nelson, Finance Corps, DSSN 5567, Finance and Accounting Officer, U.S. Army Finance and Accounting Center, Indianapolis, Indiana, under 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3528 for two improper payments totaling $261.15 payable to Mr. Whaley. For the reasons stated below, relief is granted.

The two losses resulted when the payee negotiated both the original Army- issued check and a Treasury-issued replacement instrument. In each instance, the role of Col. Nelson in issuing the second check was that of a 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 it 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 on both occasions had actually received the original check and had-- or planned to-- cashed both checks. It also appears that adequate collection efforts are now being made. Accordingly, we grant relief.

Although we have granted relief to Col. Nelson for these two losses, we note that neither of these losses were referred to your collection division in a timely manner. As we previously indicated to you, for cases involving notices of loss received after June 1, 1986, where the payee has left loss received after June 1, 1986, where the payee has left the Army or its employ, we will no longer grant relief if the finance officer delays more than 3 months in forwarding the debt to your collection division. However, since this case involves notices of loss received prior to that date, we will not deny relief here.

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