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proper amount from the available records in the absence of Ms. George who still was on vacation.
Between December 18, 1989, and January 16, 1990, when Ms. George returned from vacation, first Ms. Hanna and then another employee authorized by the State Department performed the cashier functions. Upon her return, Ms. George worked with Ms. Hanna on a reconciliation that revealed a shortage of 95,733.32 Tanzanian shillings or $499. The Embassy subsequently discovered an additional amount of $28.60, bringing the total loss to $527.60. Ms. Hanna concedes in her report that she and others have been unable to definitively ascribe the loss to particular transactions or cashiers (or other persons). Ms. Hanna has stated her belief that the loss occurred on Ms. Mwombela's first day as alternate cashier during a transaction between her and a subcashier. The Committee initially determined that Ms. Hanna was an accountable officer and should be held responsible for the loss. The Committee now asks for our opinion on these two determinations.
We have held that any government officer or employee, civilian or military, who by reason of his or her employment is responsible for or has custody of government funds is an accountable officer. 61 Comp. Gen. 313, 314 (1982); 59 Comp. Gen. 113, 114 (1979). The submission made to us clearly shows that Ms. Hanna was an accountable officer during the period beginning on the afternoon of December 12 when she first shared physical custody of the funds with Ms. Mwombela. Ms. Hanna acted as cashier during part of the period in question and had physical custody of funds at other times, for example when conducting the cash counts. However, we are unable to conclude that she was an accountable officer between the beginning of cashier operations on December 11, and the afternoon of December 12 when Ms. Hanna learned of a cash shortage and began a cash count. As the Budget and Fiscal Officer for the Embassy, Ms. Hanna was responsible for ensuring that financial records were accurately and promptly rendered and that proper controls of cash were maintained. 4 Foreign Affairs Manual 024.lc. As a Financial Management Officer, Ms. Hanna's cash management responsibilities included providing guidance and oversight to individual cashiers on operational requirements of imprest funds and in resolving unusual payment problems. 4 FAM 391.4i. The record is replete with examples of Ms. Hanna's extensive involvement in all the activities surrounding the unexplained loss. However, Ms. Hanna is not an accountable officer solely by virtue of her supervising cashiers and having general management responsibility for cashier operations. We have not considered an employee whose job description did not require assuming actual custody of government funds to be an accountable officer under 31 U.S.C. $ 3527 simply because the employee supervised accountable officers. B-214286, July 20, 1984; B-194782, Aug. 13, 1979. Further, there is no general authority to assess pecuniary liability against a government employee (not an accountable officer) for losses due to error or negligence in the absence of administrative regulations specifically providing for such liability. 52 Comp. Gen. 964 (1973). See 25 Comp. Gen. 299 (1945). An agency may provide by regulation for some accountability for administrative officers whose lack of supervision or errors in judgment cause losses in funds by accountable officers. B-194782, Aug. 13, 1979. If the agency has regulations of this type, they are considered part of the employee's employment contract and serve to put the employee on notice of potential liability. B-223726, June 26, 1987. Our review of State Department regulations generally, and documents specifically applicable to Ms. Hanna in her position as the Budget and Fiscal Officer at the American Embassy, DAR es Salaam, Tanzania, does not clearly show that the State Department considered and Ms. Hanna understood the responsibilities of the position to include being accountable for unexplained losses by cashiers and others.2 For example, provisions of the Foreign Affairs Manual previously cited contain essentially general descriptions of the responsibilities of Budget and Fiscal Officers. In comparison, Ms. Hanna's evaluation report for the period in question explicitly describes her responsibilities as including acting as the post's accountable officer in matters dealing with security of funds. Whether the State Department has made Budget and Fiscal Officers at the American Embassy, DAR es Salaam, Tanzania, accountable officers for cashier operations is in the first instance a question for the State Department to decide based on its interpretation of its regulations and other agency documents. An interesting aspect of this case not addressed in your questions is the number of accountable officers involved here. There may be more than one accountable officer in a given case and may include, in addition to the person in whose name an account is held, any other government employee who by reason of employment physically handles or otherwise takes custody of the funds. 60 Comp. Gen. 674, 676 (1981); B-193830, Oct. 1, 1979. A number of persons identified in the background section above and in the materials provided to this Office were at one time or another accountable officers with respect to funds at the Embassy. The role of these accountable officers, and the circumstances surrounding the loss, must be considered when determining whether and to what extent Ms. Hanna and others share liability for the loss of funds, and whether relief is available to them.3
2 Of course, as a certifying officer at the Embassy, Ms. Hanna was an accountable officer responsible for losses arising from improper voucher certifications. 3 Nothing in the record before us indicates that any part of the loss is attributable to cashier operations after December 14, 1989, or occurred during the cash counts, and is attributable to the actions of any persons who are accountable officers by virtue of having custody of the funds during these activities. However, these are questions of fact for the State Department in the first instance to decide.
Relief From Liability This Office is authorized to grant relief from liability upon its concurrence with a determination by the head of the agency that (1) the loss or deficiency occurred while the accountable officers or agents were acting in the discharge of their official duties, or that it occurred by reason of the acts or omissions of subordinates, and (2) that the loss or deficiency occurred without fault or negligence on the part of the accountable officers. 31 U.S.C. $ 3527(a). The agency head's findings trigger this Office's jurisdiction and we are authorized to grant relief under section 3527(a) only after the agency head has made the two determinations required by the statute. See B-241478, Apr. 5, 1991, and cases cited therein. The record submitted does not contain the agency determination that the loss of funds in this case occurred without fault or negligence of Ms. Hanna. Instead, your submission asks “... if she was an accountable officer, whether there is a basis for relieving her from liability, perhaps on the grounds that her actions were not the proximate cause of the shortage.” While much of your submission contains conclusions to the contrary, a determination that Ms. Hanna's acts and omissions were not the proximate cause of the loss is in the first instance a matter for the agency to decide. Since the record does not contain the determination required by section 3527(a), we do not have the requisite jurisdiction to grant relief. Nevertheless, the facts of this case and the nature of your request prompts us to comment further. An accountable officer is held to a high standard of care with respect to funds with which the officer is charged and is automatically liable at the moment a physical loss occurs. 54 Comp. Gen. 112 (1974); 70 Comp. Gen. 12 (1990). The disappearance of funds without explanation gives rise to a rebuttable presumption of negligence on the part of the officers accountable for them and the burden is on them to rebut this presumption with evidence to the contrary. 48 Comp. Gen. 566 (1969). In the past, we have held that accountable officers may be negligent and nevertheless be relieved from liability, if their negligence is not the proximate cause of the loss or shortage. Cf., 63 Comp. Gen. 489, 492 (1984); B-232744, Dec. 9, 1988; B-227714, Oct. 20, 1987. In this regard, we have held that when more than one person has access to funds, it may be impossible to place responsibility for a loss on any one individual. 63 Comp. Gen. 489 (1984); B-229778, Sept. 2, 1988; B-227714, Oct. 20, 1987. The number of people handling the funds and other factors may make it impossible to determine who had custody of the funds at the time of the loss. B-214286, July 20, 1986. These principles appear to be particularly important in this case since several cash counts and continuing cashier operations were performed by various persons between the initial identification of a discrepancy and the final confirmation of the shortage. The record before us suggests that the State Department has not determined the exact cause and timing of the loss of $527.60 and therefore which of the accountable officers or their actions caused the entire loss. Nor is it clear from the
record whether the State Department considered attributing the shortage of 59,000 Tanzanian shillings revealed by the December 13 cash count to Ms. Mwombela's cashier activities (during which Ms. Hanna probably was not an accountable officer) or attributing the difference between this amount and the final shortage to subsequent events, such as the December 14 payday when Ms. Hanna and other cashiers were accountable. GAO has delegated authority to agency heads to administratively resolve certain irregularities in the accounts of accountable officers. This authorization applies to physical losses and certain overpayments in amounts not to exceed $3,000 for a single incident. The authority to resolve deficiencies in the accounts of accountable officers in such cases is to be exercised consistent with decisions of this Office. See B-243749, Oct. 22, 1991. See also, Policy and Procedures Manual for Guidance of Federal Agencies, Title 7, sec. 8.9C (TS-42, Feb. 12, 1990) (7 GAO-PPM). Since the amount involved in this case is $527.60, the State Department has authority to act on the liability of the accountable officers involved in this case upon making the appropriate determinations in accordance with the standards in our decisions. We trust this responds to your request and that you will find the above discussion useful in this and future cases.
B-249259, et al., November 3, 1992
Best-buy analysis Under small purchase procedures, where the request for quotations (RFQ) states that price and delivery are the evaluation factors and that award may be based on earliest possible delivery, the Defense Logistics Agency may quantify the value to the government of each day of delivery in order to objectively evaluate quotations for the best value to the government, considering price and delivery, and need not announce in the RFQ the quantification of the delivery evaluation factor.
Matter of: General Metals, Inc.
Karl Dix, Jr., Esq., and E. Alan Arnold, Esq., Smith, Currie & Hancock, for the protester.
Robert L. Mercadante, Esq., Defense Logistics Agency, for the agency.
Henry J. Gorczycki, Esq., and James A. Spangenberg, Esq., Office of the General Counsel, GAO, participated in the preparation of the decision.
General Metals, Inc. protests the awards of orders under four requests for quotations (RFQ) issued by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) for fabricated metal items. General Metals asserts that DLA determined the awardees by using an evaluation factor that was not stated in the RFQ. We deny the protests in part and dismiss them in part. DLA conducted these procurements pursuant to the small purchase procedures of part 13 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR). DLA requested quotations from vendors on Standard Form 18 (REV. 10-83) "Request for Quotations." Each RFQ requested delivery in a specified number of days and stated that "[d]elivery will be an evaluation factor in award" and "[p]rice and delivery will be considered as award factors. Preference may be given for earliest possible delivery.”2 General Metals quoted a lower price in response to each RFQ than did the awardees, but stated a longer delivery schedule in each instance. DLA evaluated the quotations by determining the value to the government of each vendor's delivery schedule and then adding this evaluated delivery value to the vendor's price to get the total evaluated cost to the government for each vendor's quotation. DLA determined the value of delivery schedules by applying a daily production leadtime (PLT) dollar value to each day of delivery. DLA's use of the PLT dollar value is a recent approach to best value buying implemented by DLA in an effort to reduce the waste associated with long delivery leadtimes.3 See Defense Inventory: Defense Logistics Agency Needs to Better Manage Procurement Leadtimes, GAO/NSIAD-90-124, May 2, 1990. DLA calculates the daily PLT dollar value by determining the average daily forecasted requirement for the current quarterly forecasted need for the item being procured and then multiplying this average daily total by DLA's cost per unit of the item. Under this evaluation scheme, the requested delivery date in the RFQs is DLA's estimate of delivery time based on its current experience. If a vendor quotes a
RFQ No. DLA500-92-Q-GW62 requested quotes aluminum alloy structural angles; RFQ No. DLA500-92-Q-KV27 requested quotes on aluminum alloy structural sections; RFQ No. DLA500-91-Q-TS41 requested quotes on steel sheets; and RFQ No. DLA500-92-Q-J273 requested quotes on aluminum alloy structural angles. 2 RFQ No. DLA500-91-Q-TS41, as originally issued, did not indicate that delivery would be an evaluation factor. However, DLA orally amended the RFQ via telephone conversations with the vendors, which included the addition of delivery as an evaluation factor. The protester does not dispute that this amendment was made. 3 The leadtime in a procurement is the length of time between the initiation of a procurement and the receipt of the supply or service by the activity with the requirement. Procurement leadtime consists of administrative leadtime, i.e., the time DLA requires to prepare and issue an RFQ (or other type of solicitation), etc., and production leadtime, i.e., the time a vendor needs to deliver the supply after DLA issues a purchase order. DLA forecasts future requirements for supplies and procures these services in advance, so that the inventory is sufficient to provide supplies promptly when they are needed. Historically, DLA procurement officials acquired supplies well in advance of the projected need so that the activities that use the supplies would not experience delays due to inadequate inventory levels. This practice has resulted in unnecessary cost to the government because forecast inaccuracies have resulted in DLA buying supplies that are never used; the longer the forecast period, the less accurate the forecast. The cost to the government is not only the loss of the use of funds tied up in inventory, but also the cost of buying supplies that are never used. DLA has attempted to reduce the delivery component procurement leadtime through “best value” buying by requiring objective evaluation of vendors' delivery schedules, as implemented in the RFQs in question here.