The local United Way is already three months late making final payments to charities from the 2002 fundraising drive among Washington area federal employees because of uncertainty over how much it owes. Yesterday, United Way was authorized to distribute $3 million to the charities while it comes up with more precise figures.

The United Way of the National Capital Area raised $47 million in pledges in the fall 2002 Combined Federal Campaign and has paid out $36.2 million. United Way officials said this week that because of bookkeeping practices under previous management, they won't know until next month exactly how much was collected and how much is still owed.

"We're still in the process of reconciling our accounts," said Charles W. Anderson, chief executive of the United Way of the National Capital Area, who took over the organization last year after it became engulfed in financial scandal.

United Way officials said further uncertainty was created when some federal agencies mistakenly deposited workers' donations from the 2002 campaign into the account for last fall's campaign, which was run by a different organization. After running the CFC for decades, the United Way was replaced last year by Global Impact, an Alexandria organization.

"I guess because [the federal agencies] were so used to the United Way of the National Capital Area running the campaign, they were putting wire transfers into our account that should have gone to Global Impact," said Anthony Owens, director of communications for the United Way.

However, Vince Micone, chairman of the 20-member volunteer committee of federal workers that oversees the CFC, said his panel started taking steps last fall to prevent such problems. He said he is frustrated by United Way's delay.

"Our goal is to get the money to the charities as quickly as possible," Micone said. "We should have been done by now."

After each fall campaign, employees' contributions to 3,000 participating national and local nonprofit groups are deducted from their paychecks beginning in January and sent to the organization that runs the CFC campaign.

That organization is supposed to send the money to the designated charities in 12 monthly payments. The United Way made 11 of those payments for the 2002 campaign -- from May 2003 to March 2004 -- but did not make the final payment in April.

Yesterday, after getting approval from Micone's committee, the United Way said it expects to mail $3 million in checks to about 1,000 charities Monday. It expects to make another disbursement within 30 days if it determines that it owes the charities more money.

Owens said the United Way is reluctant to pay more than $3 million right now because, under federal regulations, it cannot ask the charities to return any overpayment that is discovered later.

Chuck Bean, executive director of the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington, said local nonprofits will welcome their share of that money.

"It's important to get the funds out as fast -- and as professionally -- as possible to the organizations that need it," he said.

Charles W. Anderson of United Way cited problems with accounts.