Once a week -- if enough readers write -- this space becomes the Monday Morning Quarterback section, where folks can sound off about, report on, or make suggestions or comments about government goings-on. Here's a sample from the mailbag:

"This morning {Jan. 22} I realized I had not sent in my federal and state income tax payment for the last quarter, due Jan. 15. In utter panic I called my accountant at 8 a.m. for advice. He said send the check right away. Then he said: 'I'm glad you called, I had forgotten it too!'

"Three others I talked to had also forgotten the deadline. The reason, I think, is that this year Jan. 15th was a day we all worried: Will there be war? Everything else became secondary and was forgotten.

"Perhaps the IRS can take this into consideration and, for this one time, not fine late payments but give a short grace period. Grace is badly needed in this world."

Paula in Bethesda

"You recently reported that 40,000 federal retirees had written Congress protesting budget plans to freeze and then reduce cost of living adjustments for federal retirees. Congress dropped the idea and rewarded retirees with a 5.4 percent raise.

"This is a shameful act by gutless congressmen who, rather than respond to what would be fair and equitable to all taxpayers, became wimps and answered the noisemakers . . . .

"Where but government does one receive guaranteed annual pension COLAs? With the country in such bad financial condition, wouldn't it be more prudent to allow pension COLAs up to the limit extended to Social Security recipients, not to the full federal pension?"

Taxpayer in Chantilly

"A year ago your column . . . criticized the Justice Department for being one of the worst agencies in making certain that employees' retirement papers reached the Office of Personnel Management within 30 days. Indeed our performance then was that less than 30 percent of our retirees had their papers reach OPM within the 30-day goal.

"The department recognized the situation . . . and took specific steps to improve performance. I am pleased to report that for the month of September 1990 (the latest available statistics), Justice led the government in processing retirement papers . . . . 97 percent of our retirees had their papers arrive at OPM within 30 days of retirement.

"This represents a lot of hard work by the Justice and FBI finance staffs. We intend to continue our efforts . . . to ensure that we never again fail to service our retiring employees in less than an excellent fashion."

Joseph K. Bryan

Finance Staff

Justice Department

"The government has given an 8 percent raise to federal workers in New York City, Los Angeles and San Francisco, because these are high-cost areas. By what measure? According to your Dec. 14 column listing the new federal per diem rates, the government travelers to Washington get a $131 per day expense account, but it is only $122 for San Francisco. Do the people who hand out raises in government talk to the people who handle expense accounts?"

F.W.

Washington