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If the payment of the claims referred to in full would involve an expenditure in excess of $167 per capita, as stated by the Auditor and apparently conceded by the Commissioner, I think the case falls within the prohibition, and not within the exception of the proviso.
Upon the Auditor's statement of facts his decision is approved.
ADVANCE OF MONEY TO POSTMASTERS TO PAY SALARIES OF EMPLOYEES.
Under section 3648, Revised Statutes, the Postmaster-General is authorized to advance, under direction of the President, to postmasters who have been designated as disbursing officers such sums from moneys appropriated for salaries in the postal service as may be required by said postmasters, respectively, to pay such salaries, said advancement to be made as provided by section 3674, Revised Statutes. (Comptroller Tracewell to the Postmaster-General, November 23, 1904.)
In your communication of November 21, 1904, you request me to inform you whether the issue of Post-Office Department warrants for advancing money to postmasters is authorized by law. Your communication is as follows:
"The Post-Office Department desires to advance sufficient postal funds in bulk to postmasters, by means of Post-Office Department warrants, drawn on the Treasurer of the United States, and countersigned by the Auditor for the Post-Office Department, in favor of said postmasters, to be afterwards disbursed by them in payment of salaried employees of the postal service, if the same can consistently be done under existing law.
"This desire is created by a threatening embarrassment to the postal money-order system caused by the drawing of money-order drafts and the transfer of money-order funds to postal funds in large amounts by postmasters, under the provisions of sections 1103 and 1104 of the Postal Laws and Regulations, edition of 1902, and section 4042 of the Revised Statutes, to enable them to obtain sufficient funds with which to pay expenses of the postal service, consisting mostly of salaries of employees of that service.
"It is the intention of this Department to discontinue the future drawing of money-order drafts by postmasters to obtain funds with which to make expenditures on account of the postal service, but in order to do so without causing a counter embarrassment to the postal service sufficient funds must be
furnished disbursing postmasters to meet the necessary expenditures of the postal service they are authorized to make.
"I have therefore to request that you inform me whether or not the issue of Post-Office Department warrants for the purpose named is authorized by law.
"I shall very much appreciate an early decision in the matter, as 1 desire that proper instructions be issued to disbursing postmasters by the 25th instant if possible.
"In this connection your attention is invited, for the purpose of reference, to your decision of May 19, 1904, rendered to the honorable the Secretary of the Treasury, relative to the proposed payment of star-route contractors, carriers, and mail messengers by postmasters, and to the following statutes bearing upon the payments of money out of the Treasury on account of the postal service and to payments made by disbursing postmasters: Sections 3648, 4055, 3861, 3674, and 4043 of the Revised Statutes, and the act of July 5, 1884 (23 Stat., 156)."
The Revised Statutes contain the following provisions relating to payments out of the Treasury on account of the postal service:
"SEC. 3674. Payments of money out of the Treasury on account of the postal service shall be in pursuance of appropriations made by law, by warrants of the Postmaster-General, registered and countersigned by the Auditor for the PostOffice Department, and expressing on their face the appropriation to which they should be charged."
"SEC. 4055. All payments on account of the postal revenues shall be made to persons to whom the same shall be certified to be due by the Sixth Auditor (the Auditor for the PostOffice Department); but advances of necessary sums to defray expenses may be made by the Postmaster-General to agents employed to investigate mail depredations, examine post routes and offices, and on other like services, to be charged to them by the Auditor, and to be accounted for in the settlement of their accounts.
The act of July 5, 1884 (23 Stat., 156), contains the following provisions:
"The Postmaster-General is authorized to designate postmasters at money-order post-offices as disbursing officers for the payment of the salaries of officers and employees of the postal service, and for such other payments as postmasters are now authorized to make from postal revenues."
Section 3648 of the Revised Statutes also contains the following provisions:
"It shall, however, be lawful, under the direction of the President, to make such advances to the disbursing officers of
the Government as may be necessary to the faithful and prompt discharge of their respective duties and to the fulfillment of the public engagements
By these provisions of law I think you are authorized to advance, under the direction of the President, to postmasters at money-order post-offices who have been designated as disbursing officers, from moneys appropriated for salaries of employees of the postal service, such sums as may be required by them respectively to make payments of such salaries. Such advances should be made as is provided by section 3674, supra.
Your questions not involving a payment in the sense of the law, and the warrant advancing the postal funds to postmasters not requiring the counter signature of the Comptroller of the Treasury, the above is given simply as an advisory opinion.
PAYMENT FOR PERIODICALS FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE.
Payment for periodicals should be made from the appropriation for the fiscal year for the needs and uses of which the subscriptions are given, notwithstanding the delivery of the periodicals may extend into the next fiscal year.
(Comptroller Tracewell to F. L. Evans, disbursing clerk, Department of Agriculture, November 23, 1904.)
I am in receipt of your communication of the 17th instant, as follows:
"I inclose herewith duplicate vouchers in favor of G. E. Stechert, amounting to $767.60, for certain periodicals furnished the Department from July 1, 1904, to December 31, 1904, with the following explanation: This amount covers half of the subscription price for the calendar year 1904. The order was given during the fiscal year 1904 and the subscription paid for the six months ending June 30, 1904, from the appropriation for 1904. I now have the honor to ask whether I may pay the amount represented by the inclosed vouchers from the appropriation Library Department of Agriculture, 1905.' Notice has been taken of your previous decision (2 Comp. Dec., 474) upon this matter, but it is not therein stated that payment shall not be made from the appropriation for the year in which the periodicals are furnished, but only that payment may be made from the appropriation for the year in which the periodicals were ordered. It is
desired by the Department to pay this voucher from the appropriation for 1905. As a matter of fact the appropriation for the fiscal year 1904 is exhausted."
It has been the uniform practice of the accounting officers to hold that payment for periodicals should be made from the appropriation available at the time the subscriptions were given, notwithstanding the delivery of the periodicals extended into the ensuing fiscal year. (2 Comp. Dec., 474.)
Where, however, a subscription is given in one fiscal year for a periodical of which no issue is to be made until the following fiscal year, it would seem to show that it was for the needs and use of the fiscal year in which the first issue was made. The ordinary presumption that it was for the needs and uses of the fiscal year in which the subscription was made is not conclusive, but is rebuttable by the facts of certain cases.
In determining questions of this character it must be borne in mind that an annual appropriation can only be used for the needs and uses of the fiscal year in which it is made, or in payment of contracts properly made for such needs and uses.
The fact that the order for the periodicals in question was given during the fiscal year 1904, that some of said periodicals were actually delivered and used during said fiscal year, together with the further fact that at the time said subscriptions were given the needs and uses of the fiscal year 1905 could not have been anticipated or provided for, since at that time no appropriation for the fiscal year 1905 had been made, all tend to show that the periodicals ordered were for the needs and uses of the fiscal year 1904.
I am therefore of the opinion that the periodicals represented by the voucher submitted were for the needs and uses of the fiscal year 1904, and that the appropriation for that fiscal year is exclusively applicable to the payment thereof. If said appropriation is exhausted, your Department can estimate for a deficiency appropriation to pay the claim.
FEES OF COMMISSIONERS FOR ADMINISTERING OATHS TO GOVERNMENT OFFICERS.
A United States commissioner is entitled to a fee of 10 cents for swearing a Government officer, attending as a witness, to his expense account. (Decision by Comptroller Tracewell, November 26, 1904.)
The Auditor for the State and other Departments, in passing upon the account of Lewis A. Burligh, United States commissioner, district of Maine, for the quarter ending June 30, 1904 (Certificate No. 104452), made the following suspension:
Case v. Wm. Martin, charge for administering oath to witnesses as to attendance and travel, in excess of 5 cents each, suspended........ $0.15 In his explanations to this suspension commissioner stated that the witnesses referred to were customs officers, and that the oaths administered were not to attendance and travel, but to their accounts for actual expenses.
The Auditor, however, per certificate dated November 7, 1904, disallowed the item, appending thereto the following
"It is the belief of this office that the fee of 5 cents for oath to witness as to attendance and travel was meant by the fee bill to cover also oath as to 'actual expense,' same being incidental to the witness's 'travel.'
From this final action claimant, November 16, 1904, filed this appeal for the revision of the Auditor's disallowance.
The two clauses of the fee bill (sec. 21, act May 28, 1896, 29 Stat., 184), under which this question arose, read as follows:
"For administering an oath (except to witness as to attendance and travel), 10 cents."
oath to each witness as to attendance and
"For travel, 5 cents."
By section 850 of the Revised Statutes, it is provided that any clerk or other officer of the United States who attends as a witness for the Government shall be paid his necessary expenses "stated in items and sworn to but no
shall * * *
mileage or other compensation be allowed."