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Synopsis of GAO Decision B-288266

Providing refreshments at conferences: GAO says Federal Travel Regulations went too far. Generally funds are not available for refreshments for employees not in travel status.

GAO recently decided that GSA's Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) may not be used to justify providing light refreshments to agency employees attending a conference unless the employees are in travel status (Use of Appropriated Funds to Purchase Light Refreshments at Conferences, B-288266, January 27, 2003). Generally, appropriated funds may not be used to feed government employees at their duty station, unless authorized by statute. GSA amended the FTR to provide, "Agencies sponsoring a conference may provide light refreshments to agency employees attending an official conference" (FTR, 301-74.11). GAO conceded that GSA could authorize agencies to provide light refreshments at a conference to employees in travel status as "subsistence". However, GAO held that GSA did not have the authority to rule that agencies could provide light refreshments to employees not in a travel status. Agencies must find some other exception to the general rule if they wish to pay for refreshments for employees who are not on TDY.