« AnteriorContinuar »
31. Under the resolution of Congress of Feb. tlementofaccounts; and held that every account ruary 2, 1859 (11 Stat. 571), directing the Sec- falling within the scope of the latter section retary of the Treasury to readjust certain ac- must undergo, successively, an examination by counts, his authority and duty are confined to the Auditor and an examination by the Compthe accounts specified. Opinion of March 1, troller; that the action of the Auditor is pri1859, 9 Op. 270.
mary altogether, and not definitive, while the 32. An account is adjusted when the proper action of the Comptroller is wholly revisory, Auditor and Comptroller have stated and certi- and final. Opinion of Aug. 2, 1876, 15 Op. fied the amount due on it, and the head of the 140. Department, at the request of the proper officer, 37. The word "settled," as used in section has drawn a requisition for that amount, and it 273, is equivalent in meaning to "finally acted has been paid out of the Treasury to the claim- upon.” Ibid. ant. Opinion of April 25, 1862, 10 Op. 231. 38. Where the Comptroller, on revision, does
33. In stating an account between the United not concur in the action of the Auditor disalStates and the State of Illinois, under the second lowing an account, but finds and admits a balsection of the act of March 3, 1857, chap. 104, ance arising thereon; or where he disagrees the Commissioner of the General Land Office with the Auditor in allowing an account, and should debit the United States with 5 per cent. rejects it, or increases or diminishes the balof the sales of the public lands in Illinois, in-ance reported by the Auditor in such accluding in the computation all the Indian reser-count-in any of these cases the account is vations within the State at the rate of one dol- by the action of the Comptroller finally adjusted, lar and a quarter per acre, and then credit the and further action by the Auditor is not reUnited States with the amount of the 3 per quired. Ibid. cent. on such sales already paid the State, to- 39. The purpose of section 191 Rev. Stat. is gether with the whole amount of the 2 per cent. to declare the effect of the settlement of an acfund reserved up to the passage of that act.count by the accounting officers of the TreasOpinion of July 6, 1870, 13 Op. 268.
ury as regards the executive branch of the Gov• 34. The act of March 30, 1868, chap. 36, au- ernment, not to define or explain the duties of thorizes the head of a Department, before sign- those officers relative to the settlement itself; ing a warrant for any balance certified by a and the provisions thereof comprehend all balComptroller, to submit to the latter any facts ances arising upon settlement ofaccounts which which in his judgment affect the correctness of it becomes the duty of the Comptroller to cersuch balance; but it makes the decision of the tify to the heads of Departments. Ibid. Comptroller thereon final and conclusive upon 40. Accordingly, where an account against the executive branch of the Government, and the Government is disallowed by the Auditor, subject to revision by Congress or the proper who in consequence reports no balance dne courts only. Opinion of July 22, 1872, 14 Op. thereon, but transmits the account with his 65.
action to the Comptroller for revision, and the 35. Under the provision in the act of March latter officer, upon examination, finds and ad3, 1875, chap. 131, which reads: "To enable mits a balance due the claimant: Held (assumthe Secretary of the Treasury to pay Robert B. ing the action of the Auditor and of the CompLacey, late captain and quartermaster,” a cer- troller to appear in due form) that nothing tain sum, "as the amount due him as arrear- more remains to be done by either officer to ages of pay while on duty and prior to his final complete the settlement of the account, but that discharge," the settlement should take the the Comptroller should certify the balance course appropriate to an account accruing in which he finds and admits, accompanying his the Treasury Department, and payment be certificate with evidence of the action of the made by the Secretary of the Treasury with Auditor in the same matter. Ibid. out a requisition from the Secretary of War. Opinion of Sept. 16, 1875, 15 Op. 46.
IV. Reopening. 36. Sections 273 and 277 Rev. Stat. consid- 41. Items of account had once been presented ered with reference to the relative duties of the to the accounting officers and rejected, and Second Comptroller and the Auditor in the set- | afterwards to Congress and rejected by that bouy in part, and the rejected items were again success, and again to the Postmaster-General presented to the accounting officers on new for allowance of his claim: Held that the acproof. Held that they cannot reopen the account count having been once settled cannot be renor take any new testimony in respect to those opened without authority of law. Opinion of items. Opinion of May 23, 1832, 2 Op. 515. Aug. 22, 1845, 4 Op. 429.
42. Where Congress directs an account to be 48. And it is further decided that a claimopened for a specific purpose, that purpose only ant who appeals to Congress after an unsuccan be subserved by so doing. Ibid.
cessful application at the Department must 43. Accounts once closed and settled (under abide by his election, whether the result shall the circumstances communicated to the Attor- be favorable or otherwise. Ibid. ney-General) cannot be opened, except on the 49. When accounts settled at the Treasury principles governing courts of equity in opening are for any lawful cause reopened at the request decrees. Opinion of Aug. 8, 1836, 3 Op. 148. of a claimant, and to correct errors in his be
44. Although it is doubted whether an ac- half, they are to be considered open for errors count which has been finally adjusted, settled, in behalf of the Government. Opinion of June and closed ought to be reopened, the claim in 23, 1854, 6 Op. 576. behalf of William Otis, late collector of cus- 50. Where, by a private act, the Postmastertoms at Barnstable, not having been fully General is required to cause to be re-examined settled, may now be settled without violating the transportation account of a mail contractor, such a rule. Opinion of April 20, 1840, 3 Op. it is to be intended that the same shall be done 521.
in the statute routine of the accounting of the 45. The accounts of the Chickasaw fund are Department. Opinion of Aug. 25, 1855, 7 Op. within the fourth section of the act of March 439. 3, 1845, chap. 71, making appropriations for 51. The accounting officers had no authority civil and diplomatic expenses of Government, in 1850 to reopen the accounts of Captain and, having been once passed upon, cannot be Heintzelman without his consent, after they reconsidered without the authority of law. had been finally and conclusively settled by Opinion of April 26, 1845, 4 Op. 369.
the proper Department in 1847, and charge him 46. By the fourth section of the act of 3d with a sum of money behind his back and March, 1845, chap. 71, no accounts adjusted without notice to him. Opinion of Nov. 24, by the accounting officers of the Treasury can 1860, 9 Op. 505. be reopened without authority of law, except 52. Where an account has been finally setin cases where special acts have been passed tled and adjusted, the accounting officers are for the relief of individuals. Opinion of May not authorized by law to reopen and re-examine 14, 1845, 4 Op. 378.
it; and the rule applies equally to the adjust47. Where A, who was the partner of B in ment of an account under a special act of Conone contract for carrying the mail, contracted gress, which, when it purports to be final, canindividually with the Department to carry an- not be reopened without further special legisother mail on another route, and gave B and lation. Opinion of April 25, 1862, 10 Op. 231. C as sureties for the performance of the same, 53. Where the account of a Superintendent and a portion of the contract price had been of Indian Affairs was finally adjusted, under a along, from time to time during the existence specialact of Congress, and the amountallowed of the contract, paid to B without objection duly paid, and the accounting officers afteron the part of A, whose accounts were finally wards made an additional statement and aladjusted before the passage of the act of March lowance to the claimant: Held that the Secre3, 1845, chap. 71, by charging to him the tary of the Interior might lawfully refuse to money paid to B, but who, being dissatisfied sign a requisition upon the Treasury for such with such adjustment, on the 5th of Septem- additional allowance. Ibid. ber, 1840, applied to the Sixth Auditor of the 54. The fourth section of the act of March Treasury for payment to him of so much of 3, 1845, chap. 71, is repealed by the fifth sechis contract price as had been paid to B, and, tion of the act of August 10, 1846, chap. 175. on being refused, applied to a subsequent Post- Opinion of May 19, 1862, 10 Op. 255. master-General and then to Congress without 55. Irrespective of the fourth section of the act of March 3, 1845, chap. 71, the doctrine 61. Thus the practice of referring such achas been repeatedly and distinctly asserted by counts to those officers for settlement is not the Attorney-General, and has received judi- founded merely upon departmental usage or cial sanction, that a settlement of an account departmental regulation, but rests upon direct by the accounting officers, in pursuance of spe- legislative enactment; and they are to be recial statutory authority, which purports to be garded as authorized by law to settle such acfinal, and which, having passed from their counts until Congress shall otherwise provide. hands, has been consummated by payment, can- Ibid. not afterwards be opened and readjusted by 62. But the act of 1817 left this duty to be them. The previous opinion in case of Anson discharged by those officers as it was preDart (10 Op. 231) reaffirmed. Ibid.
viously discharged by the superintendent-gen56. Where an account has been duly ad- eral of military supplies, that is to say, under justed, settled, and closed by the proper offi- the direction of the Secretary of War; and no cers, upon a full knowledge of all the facts, alteration of the law in that respect has been and no errors in calculation have been made, made by any subsequent statute. Ibid. it cannot be reopened without express author- 63. It follows that the property accounts of ity of law. Opinion of April 20, 1868, 12 Op. quartermasters in the Army should be trans386.
mitted from the War Department to the proper
accounting officers of the Treasury for settleV. Property Accounts (Army).
ment-such settlement to be made by them, 57. The laws, regulations, and departmental however, under the direction of the Secretary practice concerning the settlement of war ac- of War. Ibid. counts generally, but more especially of property accounts relating to the Army, from the commencement of the Government down to the ACCOUNTING OFFICERS. present time, reviewed. Opinion of Aug. 4, 1871, 13 Op. 483.
I. Generally. 58. Under the law as it stood before the
II. Powers and Duties. passage of the act of March 3, 1817, chap. 45,
III. Effect of Settlement by. the settlement of property accounts arising in
IV. Appeal from. the military service belonged to an officer in the War Department, called the superintend
I. Generally. ent-general of military supplies, who discharged this duty under the direction of the Secretary 1. A public debtor proposes to discharge himof War. Ibid.
self of an aggregate sum of upwards of $7,000 59. The office of superintendent-general of by his own oath alone, without any detail of military supplies was abolished by that act, and, particulars: Held that no principle of common as it seems from the last clause of the sixteenth law or equity would justify the accounting section thereof, the legislature contemplated officers in allowing charges on such evidence. that the duties of that officer touching the opinion of March 20, 1823, 1 Op. 601, 602. settlement of property accounts should there- 2. It is inexpedient for accounting officers in after be performed by such of the accounting any case, unless thereunto specially directed by officers of the Treasury, then created, upon act of Congress, to readjudicate upon the items whom was devolved the adjustment of accounts of an account once considered and settled in pertaining to the military service. Ibid. their offices. If the practice be allowed, the
60. The subsequent course of departmental experiment will be made upon every change regulations and practice has in general coin- of accounting officers, by persevering claimants cided with that understanding of the statute, who may imagine themselves entitled to more and, moreover, the duty and authority of the than they have been allowed, to procure a reaccounting officers of the Treasury to settle consideration and revision of former decisions; property accounts relating to the ny have and the same would be likely result disadbeen presupposed and distinctly recognized by vantageously to the Government. Opinion of subsequent legislation. Ibid.
April 24, 1839, 3 Op. 461.
3. The Comptroller and Auditors of the 9. If an accounting officer refuse to comply Treasury, whose appointments were author- with the lawful instructions of the head of the ized by the third section of the act of 3d March, proper Department in respect to the settlement 1817, chap. 45, are officers in the Treasury of an account, the appropriate ultimate remedy Department previously established by law, and is his removal. Opinion of Oct. 8, 1864, 11 are embraced in the restrictions imposed upon Op. 109. certain public officers by the eighth section of 10. The regulations of the Navy concerning the act of September 2, 1789, chap. 12. The payments to administrators of balances duedeobject of the law was to withdraw from the ac- ceased seamen and marines, payments of arcounting officers every motive of private in- rearages claimed under wills, &c., are not apterest in the performance of their public duties. plicable to or binding upon the accounting offiOpinion of March 15, 1847, 4 Op. 555.
cers of the Treasury Department in the set4. Acts of Congress granting relief in special tlement of naval acounts. They extend to and cases, and referring claims to the Second Audi- govern only those persons who are in the naval tor, confer upon him a jurisdiction exclusive service. Opinion of May 21, 1880, 16 Op. 494. of any other Department; and where one Auditor settles such accounts, his successors are
II. Powers and Duties. bound by his decisions. Opinion of May 8, 1849, 5 Op. 97.
11. The accounting officers may adopt the 5. The heads of Departments have a right- report of a committee of Congress upon which ful authority to direct allowances to be made, a given law was reported and passed for the or to reject claims for allowances, in settling principles which are to govern in the settlement and adjusting accounts relating to the business of accounts under the law. The passage of a of their respective Departments; and such bill accompanying a written report may be condirections and rejections ought to be conformed sidered the adoption of that report. Opinion to by the Auditors and Comptrollers and Com- of March 7, 1823, 1 Op. 597. missioner of Customs, respectively. Opinion 12. The accounts and claims of Daniel D. of Nov. 13, 1852, 5 Op. 630, 656.
Tompkins are, under the act of February 21, 6. The Secretary of the Treasury is not bound 1823, chap. 12, to be settled on principles of to grant warrants for issuing money from the equity and good conscience, subject to the reTreasury for whatever balances the Auditors vision and final decision of the President. and Comptrollers and Commissioner of Customs Ibid. may state and certify; but, as the head of the 13. The accounting officers in adjusting such accounting officers of the Treasury Depart-accounts may receive depositions, taken on noment, as the Secretary of the Treasury and the tice, as proof of the items thereof. Ibid. head of the Department, he has the rightful 14. Such officers must act upon the accounts authority to cause accounts to be reformed, re- in the first instance. They must pass upon adjusted, and settled according to his judg- them so that there shall be decisions to be apment of the right and justice of the case. proved or disapproved by the President, whose Ibid.
power is only appellate in its nature. Ibid. 7. The duty to countersign warrants does 15. Accounting officers may re-examine any not include the power to supervise, reverse, or case where judgment has been rendered by a frustrate the decision of the Secretary, nor au- court and jury before the passage of the act of thorize a refusal to countersign because the 1st March, 1823, chap. 37, if the defendant Comptroller or the Commissioner of Customs against whom the judgment has been rendered differs in opinion from the Secretary as to the has any solid ground on which to ask a court sum proper to be allowed, or is of opinion that of law for a new trial. Opinion of March 20, the warrant ought not to issue for any sum. 1823, 1 Op. 598. Ibid 657.
16. Where it shall appear to an accounting 8. The Auditor of the Treasury for the Post- officer that there is newly discovered legal eviOffice Department has direct official relation dence of which the defendant was wholly and to both the Treasury and Post-Office Depart- innocently ignorant at the time of the trial, ments. Opinion of Aug. 23, 1855, 7 Op. 439. and which if he had had the benefit of it would
have produced a different result, he may open 22. The accounting officers have authority the matter and give the party the benefit of it. to reconsider a matter that had passed from But accounting officers are to re-examine and the executive department to the legislative, admit no claims under said act where suits have under and pursuant to section 2 of the act of been commenced unless where new evidence is March 3, 1841, chap. 37. Opinion of Dec. 8, adduced other than that of the party interested. 1841, 3 Op. 731. Ibid.
23. They are directed to settle and adjust 17. It is not incumbent on the Second Comp- the accounts of the claimants under a contract troller to pass the amount of the claim of a alleged to have been made on the 12th of June, purser in the Navy to his credit, unless the same 1838, for subsisting and emigrating the Cherohas been settled by the Fourth Auditor and the kee Indians, upon principles of equity and balance certified by that officer for his decision. justice; but in settling them the contract of Opinion of June 19, 1830, 2 Op. 352.
the claimants with the United States of the 18. The Second Comptroller of the Treasury 27th of June, 1838, must be taken into conis authorized by law, in every case where, in sideration. Ibid. his opinion, further delays will be injurious to 24. There are no obligations resting upon the the United States, to direct the Auditors, whose Government to indemnify claimants for an duties are to pass upon accounts confided to his amount of provisions beyond what might be revision, to audit and report the same to him, necessary for furnishing six thousand Indians that he may revise and finally decide thereon. during the probable period of their journey. Opinion of March 26, 1831, 2 Op. 625.
Ibid. 19. The accounting officers may make rests 25. The contractors are entitled, in strict and settlements in accounts which are not final law, to the difference between the contract settlements, and which may be reviewed and price of the provisions they were bound to corrected whenever errors or false items are furnish and the actual value or market price found therein; not, however, by reopening or of them in the country where they were to be restating previous adjustments, but by making supplied; but, by the act of 3d March, 1841, such new entries as shall produce the proper chap. 37, the accounting officers are bound to correction. Ibid.
call for proof that the provisions were actu20. Even after accounts are finally closed, so ally procured to be furnished, and loss on them far as the Auditors are concerned, there may actually sustained, before making any allowbe cases in which the Comptroller or head of ance whatever. Ibid. the Department may be authorized to interfere 26. The act of March 3, 1841, chap. 37, which for the purpose of correcting errors or frauds is a positive enactment specially applicable which may have been discovered after the ac- to the case, so far alters the common rule upon tion of the Auditor. And still further, al- the subject of damages for breach of an execthough the matter may have passed beyond utory contract as to supersede that rule, and the reach of all the executive officers, the Gov- must govern the Department. Ibid. ernment may yet be entitled to surcharge and 27. By the twenty-fifth section of the act falsify by an appeal to the appropriate reme- of August 26, 1842, chap. 202, no allowance dies furnished by the judicial tribunals. But caņ be made by the accounting officers of the accounts of claimants presented for settlement Government for any commission or inquiry, in the ordinary course and under the general except military or naval, until special approlaws, and long since examined and finally set- priations are made by Congress for the purtled, cannot be reopened and further evidence pose. Opinion of Oct. 25, 1842, 4 Op. 106. received in respect to them. Ibid.
28. The accounting officers have no author21. Where accounts are presented for set- ity to adjust the claims of contractors with the tlement under special acts of Congress, the Government for damages without the special powers and duties of the accounting officers authority of Congress. Opinion of May 29, must principally depend on the terms of the 1844, 4 Op. 327. acts themselves, and be varied according to 29. The accounting officers cannot allow the variations of the special acts from the gen- credits to pursers for public stores destroyed eral law. Ibid.
by inevitable accident whilst in their posses-.