Relief of Accountable Officers Emery Banguid & Frank Forgione U.S. Embassy, Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo
B-305885, Sep 2, 2005
Relief is granted to a Class B Cashier and an Administrative Officer for the loss of $21,403.04 from the U.S. Embassy in Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo. The loss resulted from the emergency evacuation and subsequent looting of the embassy during a local civil war, and GAO concurs with the Department of State that the loss occurred without fault or negligence on the part of either the cashier or the administrative officer.
B-305885, Relief of Accountable Officers Emery Banguid & Frank Forgione, U.S. Embassy, Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo, September 2, 2005
Sheila O. Conley
Chair, Committee of Inquiry
into Fiscal Irregularities
United States Department of State
Dear Ms. Conley:
This responds to your letter of
Amid escalating violence, the entire embassy staff was evacuated on
After the evacuation, the embassy compound was vandalized and the safe in the chancery was broken into, resulting in missing documentation, including some cash.Because not all of the missing documentation could be recovered, subsequent attempts to reconcile the cash accounts of the alternate cashier resulted in a shortage.
During clean-up operations at the chancery in March 1998, embassy staff recovered partial cashier files of items on-hand and in-transit, and four cashier replenishment checks, which were cancelled and sent to FSC Paris. According to the Committee of Inquiry into Fiscal Irregularities (Committee), embassy staff undertook further efforts to recover missing documentation from the June 1997 evacuation, including:
(1) locating a missing payroll electronic funds transfer on March 24, 2000, at a local Brazzaville bank; (2) locating two cash boxes in Kinshasa belonging to a travel sub-cashier and to an administrative assistant, which contained cash and receipts; and, (3) in July 2000, Mr. Banguid located further documentation covering collections, accommodation exchange, and interim advances.
In November 2001, after FSC Paris had completed processing all of the newly found documentation, there was still no documentation for CFA Francs 8,085,703 (US $13,925.19) and $7,572.85. The deficiency totals $21,403.04. Because the shortage of funds was determined to have occurred sometime during the evacuation, both Messrs. Banguid and Forgione were considered accountable officers responsible for the deficiency. The Committee found that although embassy personnel were not able to account for all of the missing funds, there was no fault or negligence on the part of Alternate Cashier Emery Banguid or TDY Administrative Officer Frank Forgione. The Committee also found no evidence of an illegal or incorrect payment.
Under 31 U.S.C. sect. 3527, our Office may relieve accountable officers of responsibility for a physical loss of funds if we concur in the determination by the agency that: (a) the loss occurred while the accountable officer was carrying out official duties, and (b) the loss was not the result of fault or negligence on the part of the accountable officer. Once this determination is made, we are authorized to grant relief. See B-300677,
The presumption that accountable officers have been negligent when a physical loss of funds for which they are responsible occurs can be rebutted by evidence to the contrary. B-230796,
June 19, 2003); to a fire (B-212515, Dec. 21, 1983); to an attack on or escalating violence involving an embassy or mission overseas (B-249372, Aug. 13, 1992;
B-229753, Dec. 30, 1987; B-203726, July 10, 1981; B-194666, Aug. 6, 1979); to theft
(B-265856, Nov. 9, 1995; B-261261, Aug. 31, 1995; B-195435, Sept. 12, 1979); and to a prison riot (B-232252, Jan. 5, 1989; B-230796, Apr. 8, 1988).
In this case, the Committee of Inquiry into Fiscal Irregularities at the Department of State has made the requisite determination that the loss occurred while Messrs. Banguid and Forgione were acting in the discharge of their official duties as alternate cashier and TDY administrative officer, respectively, and that it was caused by circumstances beyond their control and not attributable to fault or negligence on their part. Since the loss of funds resulted from the emergency evacuation and subsequent vandalism of the U.S. Embassy in Brazzaville, we agree that the loss was not the result of fault or negligence on the part of either Mr. Banguid or Mr. Forgione.
We therefore grant relief to Mr. Banguid and Mr. Forgione in the amount of $21,403.04. The loss may be charged to the proper appropriation in accordance with 31 U.S.C. sect. 3527.
Susan A. Poling
Managing Associate General Counsel
cc: Mr. Emery Banguid
Mr. Frank Forgione
Relief is granted to a Class B Cashier and an Administrative Officer for the loss of $21,403.04 from the U.S. Embassy in