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It is believed necessary, before stating the views of this Office regarding the proposed legislation, to apprise you of the existing law relating to the settlement of accounts in general and the unusual circumstances affecting the accounts of United States property and disbursing officers which apparently brought about the introduction of the bill under consideration.
The law now provides that the General Accounting Office shall receive and examine all accounts of salaries and incidental expenses of the office of the Secretary of War and all bureaus and offices under his control, including all accounts relating to the Military Establishment, armories, etc., and all other business within the jurisdiction of the War Department, and certify the balances arising thereon (U. S. C. 31:72).
Except as otherwise provided by law, all monthly accounts are required to be mailed to the proper administrative office at Washington, D. C., within 10 days after the end of the month to which they relate and shall be transmitted to, and received by, the General Accounting Office within 20 days of their actual receipt at the proper administrative office in Washington in the case of monthly, and 60 days in the case of quarterly accounts (U. S. C. 31:78), but the time for examination of monthly accounts covering expenditures from appropriations for the Army, by the bureaus and officers of the War Department, after the date of actual receipt and before transmitting the same to the General Accounting Office is fixed at 60 days, and in time of war may be extended to 90 days by the Comptroller General upon request of the Secretary of War (U. S. C. 31:80).
United States property and disbursing officers are appointed by the governors of the respective States under the provisions of section 67 of the National Defense Act (U. S. C. 32:49), and are required to receipt and account for all funds and property belonging to the United States in possession of the National Guard, to make such returns and reports concerning same as may be required by the Secretary of War, and to render through the War Department such accounts of Federal funds entrusted to them for disbursement as may be required by the General Accounting Office. Before entering upon the performance of their duties they are required to give good and sufficient bond to the United States for the faithful performance of their duties and for the safe-keeping and proper disposition of the Federal property and funds entrusted to their care.
It will be observed that under the law the money accounts of Army disbursing officers are not required to reach this Office in less than 30 days after the end of the month for which they are rendered, exclusive of the necessary time for transmission from the field, and this entire period is consumed before such National Guard accounts reach this Office. The average time required to complete a settlement is approximately 7 or 8 months after receipt of the account in this Office, unless it involves questions of irregularities, in which case some delay necessarily ensues, and settlement thereafter is dependent upon the promptness of the disbursing officer in answering the exceptions taken in his accounts by this Office, and the nature of his replies, including the furnishing of additional evidence or explaining the questioned items.
Once an account has been settled it is never reopened here except upon receipt of new and material evidence casting doubt upon the correctness of any item included therein. Whatever delay then results in the final settlement of such reopened accounts of United States property and disbursing officers, and in the ultimate potice thereof to their sureties, is inevitable if the interests of the Government are to be adequately protected; and since such delays occur only when irregularities appear, any inconvenience is to be attributable primarily to the disbursing officers and not to the accounting officers of the Government charged with the audit, adjustment, and settlement of accounts. It seems clear, however, especially in view of the reasonably prompt handling in the ordinary course of business in this office of disbursing officers' accounts that the proposed legislation is not aimed at the usual and ordinary accounts of these United States property and disbursing officers but undoubtedly has reference to accounts the final settlement of which is held in abeyance pending the outcome of an investigation into apparent irregularities or where accounts have been reopened due generally to newly discovered material evidence affecting the correctness of such accounts.
Bearing in mind the fact that the certificates with reference to the justness and correctness of vouchers comprising any one given account submitted to the General Accounting Office must of necessity be accepted for their face valuethat is, assumed to be justly and truly stated—it is obvious that in that class of cases where suspected transactions are suggested affecting the correctness of any such accounts, extreme care and deliberation are necessarily called for not only in the original questioning of such vouchers, but more so in ascertaining and establishing the facts forming the background for the suspected questionable payments, as well as in final disposition of items to which exception has been taken, and in the final settlement of the accounts in which excepted items are included. It might be stated here as a matter of record that during the last 10 years, as a result of field investigations and related audit or reaudit by this Office of the accounts of certain United States property and disbursing officers, there have been disclosed shortages and other irregularities of a serious nature affecting the correctness of the said accounts which led to the arrest, imprisonment, and/or relief from duty of several of the responsible United States property and disbursing officers and certain other individuals involved in the perpetration of such irregularities. In fact, the many disclosed irregular transactions affecting the correctness of numerous vouchers included in the accounts of the United States property and disbursing officers throw an unfavorable reflection not only upon the officers in whose accounts such vouchers are included but also on the officers who are shown to have certified to the correctness of such vouchers and on their superiors who approved such vouchers for payment.
But few of the accounts of United States property and disbursing officers which have been examined by investigators of this Office in the field were found free of misstated or false vouchers. Collection proceedings are now in progress against the principals and their sureties under applicable statutes for the amount of the disclosed deficiencies in their accounts.
In my special reports to the President of the United States Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives under date of March 3, 1938, and in the annual report of this Office to the Congress for the fiscal year 1938, reference was made to numerous items involving the perpetration of illegal and irregular transactions in connection with payments reflected in the accounts of United States property and disbursing officers, to which attention is invited.
In addition to the many disclosed false and fraudulent vouchers which are included in the accounts of the United States property and disbursing officers, submitted to this Office, and for the improper preparation and submission of which the said officers were disclosed to have been personally responsible, it was found also that such accounts contained literally hundreds of vouchers covering purported furnishing of services or materials which were never furnished and for the preparation and submission of which vouchers the certifying officers shown thereon and/or others were revealed to be responsible.
It is the belief here, in view of experience during the last 10 years, and without reflecting on the honesty and integrity of the majority of the United States property and disbursing officers who are presumably carrying out their prescribed duties faithfully and conscientiously, that as a class such accounts compare very unfavorably as to their correctness with other accounts submitted to this Office. Nevertheless, since it appears that the primary aim of the proposed legislation is the validation of payments for which credit was withheld on account of the disclosed irregularities affecting same and the removal of charges raised in the accounts of United States property and disbursing officers of which those specifically mentioned above are exemplary, it would seem that such culpable officers would be the principal beneficiaries in the event S. 3497 is enacted into law. There is apparent to this Office no valid reason for relieving the responsible disbursing officers and their sureties from liability for the illegal transactions in which the said officers were disclosed to have been involved and thus impliedly condoning the irregular and illegal acts which abound in the records relating to their respective accounts, Such condonation, it is believed, would encourage laxity, and worse, in the conduct of the National Guard establishment. In any event it could not be in the public interest for the United States property and disbursing officers to receive such favorable consideration from the Congress in the form of the proposed legislation in the face of the disclosed irregularities affecting their accounts. The validation of the illegal payments would undoubtedly serve as an encouragement for the misapplication of public funds in the future not only by this particular class of officers but by other officers who might be led to expect similar favorable consideration from the Congress.
Extenuating circumstances might arise which would justify the granting of relief to certain officers in whose accounts credit has been withheld for irregular payments, but in which the disbursing officers personally are not involved in any way. Cases of this nature have heretofore been favorably acted upon by the Congress and such relief relating to individual cases might, if necessary, be likewise granted in the future in justice to the individuals concerned. However, the granting of blanket relief as is intended by the proposed bill could not, as indicated above, be in the public interest.
There is still another aspect to the situation presented by the proposed legislation. The Congress has seen fit within the last few years to appropriate large sums of money for the strengthening of the national defense. The National Guard has also in various ways been benefited from such increased appropriations. Because the National Guard is considered an important arm of the national defense it is obviously essential that its operations be carried on with the utmost effectiveness and for the public good. It is clear, too, that the diversion of funds from the purposes intended, and especially when such diversion is for the personal unauthorized benefit of certain individuals connected with the National Guard, not only destroys the purpose for which Congress intended that such funds be used, but, what is more important, that such acts undoubtedly undermine the effectiveness of the National Guard as a whole and its usefulness as an arm of the national defense.
The outstanding disallowances or charges raised on account of disclosed questionable transactions affecting the accounts of United States property and disbursing officers are numerous. Single items involving thousands of dollars are included among them. It is to be borne in mind also that due to limited personnel available, the investigations of this Office are necessarily limited in scope and in number. It might be reasonably assumed, on the basis of known facts, that considerably larger sums might have been misappropriated and improperly diverted from their intended purpose without coming to the attention of either this Office or that of the War Department. It is believed, therefore, that in order to avoid future improper diversion of Federal funds appropriated for the national defense, rigid enforcement of existing laws and regulations with reference to the receipt, disbursement, and application of public funds is absolutely essential. To grant the relief as proposed by S. 3497 to accountable officers who are disclosed to be either not sufficiently diligent or totally negligent and/or criminally culpable in the faithful performance of their undertaken duties in connection with the handling of public funds would certainly deter such a rigid enforcement in the future and would serve to weaken rather than strengthen the national defense.
In view of the above, I am unable to recommend favorable consideration of the proposed legislation. Sincerely yours,
R. W. ELLIOTT, Acting Comptroller General of the United States.
REPORT No. 1721
PROVIDING PUNISHMENT FOR PROMOTING OVERTHROW OF GOVERNMENT, TO REQUIRE DEPORTATION OF CERTAIN ALIENS, TO PROVIDE REGISTRATION AND FINGERPRINTING OF ALIENS
May 29 (legislative day, May 28), 1940.-Ordered to be printed
Mr. CONNALLY, from the Committee on the Judiciary, submitted the
[To accompany H. R. 5138)
The Committee on the Judiciary, to whom was referred the bill (H. R. 5138) to make unlawful attempts to interfere with the discipline of the Army, Navy, and the Coast Guard; to require the deportation of certain classes of aliens; to require fingerprinting of aliens seeking to enter the United States, and for other purposes, after consideration thereof, report the same with amendments and recommend that, as amended, it do pass.
Title I gives protection to the Army, Navy, and Coast Guard, and the Reserves, the peacetime protection against subversive influences now provided in time of war.
It is made a crime to advise, counsel, or solicit a member of the armed forces or Reserves to disobey lawful orders of superiors or the rules and regulations governing them, or to distribute writings urging the same thing. Provision is made for search and confiscation of writings intended for this purpose, and conspiracies to violate the provisions of the title are made criminal.
The penalty for violation of these provisions is fixed at imprisonment for not more than 10 years, or a fine of not more than $10,000 or both; and deportation in the case of an alien.
The committee has made minor amendments to this title, to relieve any possible unjust harshness of definition in the language.
· The second title invokes the same criminal sanctions against any person who shall knowingly and willfully advocate or teach, the over