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Free Icebreaker and Employee Training Activities - DOC

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Free Icebreaker and Employee Training Activities - DOC Powered By Docstoc
					SECTION P
CONFERENCE PLANNING




                      CONFERENCE PLANNING
                      SECTION P
                      January 2005
I. Scope

       A. Course addresses the fiscal and contracting rules for planning conferences and
reviewing letters of intent.

       B. Does not address awards ceremonies.

II. References

       A. Statutes

           1. 31 USC §1301, Purpose Statute.

           2. 5 USC §4101, et seq., Government Employees Training Act.

           3. 31 USC §3302, Miscellaneous Receipts.

       B. Regulations

         1. 41 CFR chapters 300 – 304, Federal Travel Regulation , available at
www.gsa.gov.

       C. Other Guidance

           1. Comptroller General Decisions

              a. Lexis Database (available through JAGCNet) Published and some
       unpublished US Comptroller General Decisions.

                (i). Recent Comptroller General opinion – Use of Appropriated Funds to
       Purchase Light Refreshments at Conferences, B-288266, 2003 U.S. Comp. Gen.
       224, January 27, 2003. GSA does not have the authority to issue regulations that
       purport to permit agencies to use appropriated funds to pay for employees’ food
       and light refreshments at conferences, meetings, or training activities that could
       be considered conferences except as part of a travel subsistence allowance.
       Argument that serving light refreshments is a common business practice and
       should not be prohibited for Government sponsored conferences does not
       overcome the fact that expenditure of public funds must be anchored in law, not
       the practices and conventions of the private sector.

                 (ii). The Government Employees Training Act does not apply to non-
       federal personnel, and cannot be used to provide a basis to provide food or
       refreshments to non-federal personnel in a training situation. Coast Guard –

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       Coffee Break Refreshments at Training Exercise – Non-Federal Personnel, B-
       247966, 1993 U.S. Comp. Gen. LEXIS 639, June 16, 1993.


              b. Principles of Federal Appropriations Law, volume 1, chapter 4, pages
       4–29 and 4–88. The “Red Book”, available at www.gao.gov under legal
       products.

               c. New DA Policy, March 6, 2003. Appropriated funds cannot be used to
       pay for light refreshments at conferences for local (non-TDY) attendees.

                (i). A conference registration fee or other procedure reimbursable on a
       travel voucher as a cost of the travel may not be used to circumvent the
       Comptroller General decision.

               (ii). If light refreshments are served at Government expense, local (non-
       TDY) attendees must refrain from partaking of the refreshments, or pay for their
       refreshments out of personal funds.

                (iii). The cost of refreshments provided by conference facilities is often
       disproportionate to the value received.

              d. AFI 65-601, Budget Guidance and Procedures, volume 1, December
       24, 2002, paragraph 4.42.

              e. Operational Contracting Policy Letter Number 22, NGB-AQC.
       Contract Support for Conferences. Specific rules apply to ARNG funds, but
       general principles apply to all appropriated funds.

III. Food

       A. General Rules

            1. The general rule is that appropriated funds are not available for the
purchase of food for government employees. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, North
Atlantic Division –Food for a Cultural Awareness Presentation, B-301184, 2004 U.S.
Comp. Gen. LEXIS 2002, January 15, 2004; Use of Appropriated Funds to Purchase
Light Refreshments at Conferences, B-288266, 2003, U.S. Comp. Gen. LEXIS 224,
January 27, 2003.

            2. Government employees (civilian and military) attending a conference are
on travel orders and are provided a per diem allowance. The meals portion of their per
diem allowance is designed to offset the cost of meals. Thus, the Government employees
must pay for their own individual meals.
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           3. Federal agencies are prohibited from purchasing food for Government
employees in the area of their permanent workstations.

       B. Working Lunches/Dinners

           1. Food is an authorized expense in the local area if the purpose of the
conference is:

               a. Training and

               b. Meets a three part test:

                (i). Meals must be incidental to the meeting;

                (ii). Attendance at the meal must be necessary for full participation in
       the business of the conference; and

                (iii). The employee is not free to take the meal elsewhere without being
       absent from essential formal discussions, lectures or speeches concerning the
       purpose of the conference. Expenditures by the Department of Veterans Affairs
       Medical Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, B-247563.4, 1996 U.S. Comp. Gen.
       LEXIS 603, December 11, 1996.

                c. This exception does not authorize payment of meals in connection with
       internal business meetings or conferences sponsored by government agencies.
       There is a clear distinction between payment of meals incidental to formal
       conferences or meetings, typically organized or sponsored by, involving topical
       matters of general interest to governmental and non-governmental participants,
       and internal business or information meetings primarily involved in the day-to-
       day operations of government. The purpose of Comptroller General exceptions is
       not to feed government employees by using a “training” or “meeting” rubric as a
       convenient vehicle to achieve that result. Corps of Engineers, B-249795, 1993
       U.S. Comp. Gen. LEXIS 452, May 12, 1993.

               2. Limitations

                a. Attendance at the meal must be mandatory for all conference
       attendees.

                b. Appropriated funds may be used only for conference attendees on
       Federal TDY orders. Agencies cannot pay for those who are not on Federal TDY
       orders. This includes state employees and local attendees.

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        c. The Federal Government may only pay for working lunches/dinners
consumed.

         d. When the Government provides meals, the cost of the meals
provided each day when combined with the proportional meals and incidental
expenses (M&IE) rate cannot cause the full per diem rate to be exceeded. Office
of CHAMPUS, Department of Defense, B-208921, 1983 U.S. Comp. Gen. LEXIS
1317, April 15, 1983.

          e. If the host unit contracts for the meals or the cost of the meals is
included in a reimbursable conference fee, then the individual’s travel voucher
must indicate the number of meals provided. FTR §301-11.18.

          f. The proportional meal rate will apply for each day a meal is
provided. That is, per diem will be reduced to prevent double payment.

       3. How to fund working lunches/dinners.

           a. Conference Fees

              (i). The cost of the working lunch/dinner may be included in a
       conference fee reimbursable on an employee’s travel voucher.

              (ii). The proportional meal rate will apply for each day a meal is
       provided. That is, per diem will be reduced to prevent double payment.

              (iii). A receipt clearly annotating the number and dollar amount of
       meals must be provided to all attendees.

               (iv). The fee must be mandatory for all attendees.

             (v). If conference fees are not reimbursable, then they may not be
       a mandatory expense.

          b. Contracting Directly for Meals.

              (i). If all attendees are on Federal TDY orders, then the sponsoring
       organization may fund the meals out of its own O&M funds.

               (ii). The meal must be mandatory for all attendees.

              (iii). The sponsoring organization will not be able to recoup the
       cost. 31 USC §3302(b), Miscellaneous Receipts

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                                                      January 2005
C. Light Refreshments

        1. Old Rule: GSA permitted the expenditure of Federal appropriations to
fund light refreshments as long as 51% of the attendees were in travel status. A
2003 Controller General Decision ruled this no longer applies. Use of
Appropriated Funds to Purchase Light Refreshments at Conferences, B-288266,
2003 U.S. Comp. Gen. LEXIS 224, January 27, 2003.

        2. Appropriated funds may be used to pay for light refreshments in
limited circumstances.

          a. Attendee must be in TDY status.

          b. May not pay for light refreshments for those not in a TDY status.

       3. Conference Fees

           a. Reimbursable as long as

               (i). Inseparable and incidental to the costs of the conference. May
       not be an itemized portion of the hotel’s bill.

              (ii). The conference fee may not consist of only light
       refreshments. Decision of the Comptroller General, B-195045, 1980 U.S.
       Comp. Gen. LEXIS 3677, February 8, 1980; Decision of the Comptroller
       General, B-182527, 1975 U.S. Comp. Gen. LEXIS 2434, February 12,
       1975.

            b. Proportional meal rate does not apply and attendees are not
required to report the food on the travel voucher.

             c. If the conference fee is not reimbursable, then the fee may not be
mandatory.

       4. Contracting Directly for Light Refreshments.

        a. Conference proponent may contract for light refreshments using its
own O&M funds.

             b. Limited to attendees in TDY status.

          c. The sponsoring organization will not be able to recoup the costs.
31 USC §3302(b), Miscellaneous Receipts.

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                                                      January 2005
                   d. HQDA stated in a recent memorandum to HQDA Conference
       Proponents date March 6, 2003, “Conference proponents should carefully
       consider the need to purchase light refreshments for attendees in TDY status.
       Such attendees already receive a generous allowance for meals. The cost to the
       Government for light refreshments supplied by conference hosts is often
       disproportionate to the value received. All officers and employees should be
       good stewards of the Government’s resources.”

       D. Icebreakers/Social Hours/Evening Socials

              1. There is no authority to use appropriated funds for this purpose.

                  a. May not be included in a reimbursable conference fee.

                  b. May not contract directly with a hotel/vendor.

              2. Individual attendees must fund costs out of their own pockets.

              3. No reimbursement on travel voucher.

              4. May not be a mandatory expense.

              5. One narrow exception for attending a non-government sponsored
       event. Federal Highway Administration – Cost of Social Events as Conference
       Expenses, B-224830, 1987, U.S. Comp. Gen. LEXIS, 1409, March 20, 1987.

                  a. Fee must be mandatory.

                  b. Social events must be included in fee.

                   c. Social event must be non-separable from fee.

IV. Conference Presentation Rooms

       A. Appropriated funds may be used to pay for the use of the main presentation
room(s) and ancillary support; i.e., audio/visual equipment.

       B. Conference Fee.

           1. Costs of facilities may be included with the conference fee.

           2. Exception – conferences hosted by Air Guard organizations using Air
       Force funds must comply with the rules in AFI 65-601, paragraph 4.42.2.

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V. Individual Rooms

       A. May not contract directly for individual rooms.

        B. Individuals must pay for their own rooms and use the travel voucher system
for reimbursement. Frequent travelers must use government issued travel card.

VI. Taxes

       A. Travelers on official business are required to pay applicable taxes for items
such as lodging or rental cars. 41 CFR §§301-11.27 and 301-11.28.

            1. The taxes are reimbursable as a miscellaneous travel expense.

           2. Travelers who elect to stay at facilities that charge more than the
       maximum authorized rate may only claim reimbursement for taxes on the
       authorized rate, not the full amount.

      B. Requirement to pay taxes may be exempted by State or local jurisdiction. If
exempted, traveler may have to file form with hotel or vendor.

VII. Gifts/Tokens/Mementoes

       A. General Rule: Appropriated funds may not be used for a personal expense.

        B. The Comptroller General has previously held that novelty items, commercial
calendars and novelty garbage cans are not an authorized expense. Expenditures by
Department pf Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Oklahoma City, OK, B-247563.3, 1996,
U.S. Comp. Gen. LEXIS 414, April 5, 1996; Expenditures by Department of Veterans
Affairs Medical Center, Okalahoma City, OK (II), B-247563.4, 1996 U.S. Comp. Gen.
LEXIS 603, December 11, 1996; Department of the Army – Purchase of Commercial
Calendars, B-211477, 1983 U.S. Comp. Gen. LEXIS, July 14,1983; and Novelty Garbage
Cans Distributed by EPA, B-191155, 1978 U.S. Comp. Gen. LEXIS 143, March 29,
1978.

       C. NGB-JA has also opined that tote bags, cloth binders, and ashtrays are not
authorized expenses.

VIII. Honorariums

      A. Department of Defense Policy Memorandum dated 5 January 1995 limits the
payment of fees for guest speakers, lecturers and panelists to $500.


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                                                            January 2005
        B. Policy is based on the belief that DOD officials must assure that excessive fees
are not paid to persons engaged to deliver speeches, lectures and presentations.

            1. The basis for the policy is that excessive honorariums had been paid in the
        past.

            2. Such payments invoke criticism from Congress, the press, and the public.

            3. Additionally, they are not consistent with policy to reduce costs
        throughout the DOD.

        C. Waivers must be approved by the next higher organizational echelon.

IX. Cancellation Fees

        A. Only a Contracting Officer can obligate the Government to pay cancellation
fees.

       B. Letters of Intent that include a cancellation fee may only be signed by a
Contracting Officer.

        C. Example: Army Major in a conference proponent organization signed a letter
of intent with a $50,000.00 cancellation fee. Conference was cancelled. Hotel filed a
claim for the cancellation fee. A Contracting Officer denied the claim under the Contract
Disputes Act since a warranted Contracting Officer did not sign the Letter of Intent.
Note: this action could not be ratified because the Army did not receive value. Major
could be sued in his individual capacity. When in doubt, consult the legal office.




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                                                             CONFERENCE PLANNING
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