Skip to Highlights
Highlights

Department of the Interior cashier and alternate cashier are relieved of liability for shortage of $3. Agency determined that loss was not due to fault or negligence of cashier or alternate cashier. The facts are as follows. McCall was the imprest fund cashier and Ms. A copy of the combination is maintained in double sealed envelopes that are kept in a locked box in the office of the contracting officer. Checked the handle to make sure it was locked and placed the knob back to zero. That was the last time Ms. Stanford left for the day on June 29 at noon and at that time the safe was closed. There were no signs of forced entry into the safe. AASO subsequently determined that little over $300 was left in the cash boxes inside the safe and.

View Decision

B-242830, Sep 24, 1991, Office of General Counsel

DIGEST: Under 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3527(a), Department of the Interior cashier and alternate cashier are relieved of liability for shortage of $3,005.75 in imprest funds account resulting from an unexplained loss. Agency determined that loss was not due to fault or negligence of cashier or alternate cashier, and we concur since record reveals that employees had complied with applicable regulations regarding safeguarding the combination to the safe and the accountable officers made an affirmative showing of due care.

Mr. William L. Kendig:

Mr. Kendig:

This responds to your request of January 30, 1991, that we relieve Ms. Darlene McCall, imprest fund cashier, and Ms. Susan Stanford, alternate cashier, for the unexplained loss of $3,005.75 in imprest funds. For the reasons set out below, we grant relief to Ms. McCall and Ms. Stanford.

BACKGROUND

Based on your submission, the facts are as follows. In June 1990, Ms. McCall was the imprest fund cashier and Ms. Stanford the alternate cashier at the Mineral Management Service, Alaska Administrative Satellite Office (AASO) in Anchorage, Alaska. The two cashiers worked out of separate cash boxes maintain in a small combination safe. In addition to the two cashiers who use the safe, Mr. Allen Carlson, the supervisor of the office, and one other person, can gain access to the safe in the event of an emergency. A copy of the combination is maintained in double sealed envelopes that are kept in a locked box in the office of the contracting officer. (The seals of the envelope had not been disturbed.)

On Friday, June 29, 1990, Ms. McCall, balanced her cash drawer at 8:30 a.m. and then made one transaction for $58 during the day. After lunch that day (1 p.m.), she recounted the money and placed it in the cash drawer. She placed the money back in the safe, spun the knob, checked the handle to make sure it was locked and placed the knob back to zero. That was the last time Ms. McCall entered the safe on June 29. Ms. Stanford left for the day on June 29 at noon and at that time the safe was closed.

The record reflects that during the evening of Sunday, July 1, Mr. Ollie Massingdale, an employee of the janitorial service company, found the safe open with the two cash boxes inside. There were no signs of forced entry into the safe. Mr. Massingdale states that he found cash on the top of the cash boxes inside the safe. Mr. Massingdale and his foreman counted $1,480 and then placed the cash in an envelope which their supervisor turned over to the building manager on Monday morning.

The building manager called Ms. Stanford to tell her of the AASO money that had been taken from the safe which had been found open on Sunday evening. Ms. Stanford advised Ms. McCall of the incident, and they subsequently checked their cash boxes to find money missing.

AASO subsequently determined that little over $300 was left in the cash boxes inside the safe and, after accounting for the $1,480 in the envelope, $3,005,75 was missing. The incident was reported to the Federal Protection Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Secret Service. These agencies referred the investigation of the $3,005.75 loss to the Anchorage Police Department. The investigation did not reveal sufficient information to identify a subject or to seek prosecution. You have determined that the loss was not the result of fault or negligence by Ms. McCall or Ms. Stanford.

Discussion

An accountable officer is held to a high standard of care with respect to funds with which the officer is charged and is presumed negligent at the moment a physical loss occurs. 54 Comp.Gen. 112, 114 (1974); B-241478, Apr. 5, 1991. However, under 31 U.S.C. Sec. 3527(a)(1988), this Office is authorized to relieve an accountable officer of liability for a physical loss of government funds if we concur in the determination of the head of the agency that: (a) the loss occurred while the officer was carrying out his official duties and (b) that the loss was not the result of fault or negligence on the part of the officer. B-230796, Apr. 8, 1988.

To grant relief under section 3527(a), the presumption of negligence must be rebutted with convincing evidence that the loss was not caused by the accountable officers' negligence or lack of reasonable care. B-241478, Apr. 5, 1991. Indeed, the mere absence of evidence implicating the accountable officer in the loss is not sufficient to rebut the presumption of negligence. B-209569, Apr. 13, 1983.

You maintain that the two accountable officers were without fault or negligence and characterize the loss of funds as an "apparent theft." You indicate that the loss apparently occurred during non-business hours between Friday evening June 29, and sometime on Sunday July 1. physical loss cases where the evidence shows that a theft took place and an investigation reveals no connection between the accountable officer and the theft, the presumption of negligence is rebutted and we have granted relief to the accountable officer. See, e.g., B-235180, May 11, 1989; B-232252, Jan. 5, 1989. Here, however, there is no evidence of forced entry into the safe or cash box. Under these circumstances, we treat the missing funds as "an unexplained loss", and examine the record to see whether there is an affirmative showing of due care, B-214080, Mar. 25, 1986. The record indicates that Ms. McCall locked the safe after she completed the only transaction she made on June 29 and that was the last time she entered the safe that day. Ms. Stanford stated when she left for the day on June 29 at noon, the safe was closed.

In addition, according to agency officials, Linia Walker, one of the last employees to leave the office on June 29, stated that the safe was closed. Moreover, the record indicates that none of the office employees had returned to work over the weekend. Nor is there any evidence in the record to rebut the cashiers' statements that the safe was locked the last time either of them used it. See B-188733, Mar. 29, 1979, affirmed on reconsideration, Jan. 17, 1980.

Additionally, the record shows no violation of the applicable regulations regarding safeguarding the combination to the safe. See Financial Management Service, Manual of Procedures and Instructions for Cashiers 3 (July 1985). Ms. McCall and Ms. Stanford have stated that they memorized the combination to the safe which contained the imprest fund, and the combinations maintained in the contracting officer's office were appropriately maintained. Under these circumstances, we believe the accountable officers exercised due care.

The agency has determined that the loss was not the result of negligence on the part of either Ms. McCall or Ms. Stanford. For the above reasons, we concur with this administrative determination and grant relief from liability to Ms. McCall and Ms. Stanford.

GAO Contacts