January 17, 2012 at 1:51 pm #149644
General question about having seasonal events (e.g., summer picnic, holiday party). My office has always had these events during work hours, with the employee contributing to cover the entire cost of the event. For example, an employee generally pays about $15 to cover the rental and food. Also, the events are generally for employees only, with no spouse/significant other attendance.
This is way different that what happens in the private sector, and I understand the general reason why. But with that said, I am curious.
- Are they any laws/regulations/guidance around these events that drive the cost to the employee?
- Do any offices pay for these events out of their budget? (If so, how?)
January 17, 2012 at 3:40 pm #149680
Summer picnic is held at a DC park and games are from staff members own homes. The food is paid for by the upper managers each throws $50 or whatever the share is into a pot.
Christmas party is usually paid for by the employee this year the price was $20 per head.
January 17, 2012 at 4:44 pm #149678
As a federal employee I am NOT an advocate to hold “morale” events during work hours, which should be spent performing work for our taxpayers but, to answer your questions:
Q1 ) Yes… GAO decisions and the Redbook
Q2) In general, it is illegal for any agency to pay morale events out of their budgets. Only certain minimum light food items and refreshments are allowed, but they would have to be used for celebration of ‘cultural awareness” events (e.g. ethnic foods, etc), awards ceremony, necessary to obtain benefit at a training event ,a non-separable portion of the registration cost of meeting or conference, which covers the meals, or a local / national emergency.
January 17, 2012 at 5:39 pm #149676
January 17, 2012 at 5:46 pm #149674
GAO Decision B-288266, B-300826
Redbook Chptr 4, Section C…Google “government food and refreshments”…you may find this and much more information…
January 17, 2012 at 7:02 pm #149672
The key language seems to be in the GAO Redbook, Chapter 4, Section 5: Entertainment—Recreation—Morale
The concept to be explored in this section is the rule that appropriated
funds may not be used for entertainment except when specifically
authorized by statute and also authorized or approved by proper
administrative officers. E.g., 69 Comp. Gen. 197 (1990); 43 Comp. Gen. 305
(1963). The basis for the rule is that entertainment is essentially a personal
expense even where it occurs in some business-related context. Except
where specifically appropriated for, entertainment cannot normally be said
to be necessary to carry out the purposes of an appropriation.
The reader will readily note the sharp distinction between government
practice and corporate practice in this regard. “Entertainment” as a
business-related expense is an established practice in the corporate sector.
No one questions that it can be equally business-related for a government
agency. The difference—and the policy underlying the rule for the
January 17, 2012 at 7:23 pm #149670
The Coast Guard uses its MWR to sponsor events like picnics and employees pay a charge to cover food. Most agencies have a Recreation Association, which performs similar functions. Here is a link to the USCG MWR Manual:
January 17, 2012 at 7:28 pm #149668
@ Terry… As a CG Retiree myself, I know that is a fact and all other military outfits have MWR’s which are funded by “Non-appropriated fund” activities; e.g. CG Exchange System, AAFEES, etc, where the Active Duty can enjoy that benefit while civilians may (or not) pay a “small” sur-charge for some activities. Civilian agency’s do not have that priviledge.
January 17, 2012 at 9:54 pm #149666
Our organization has a few such events a year. We always have the Thanksgiving and Christmas luncheons, we invite spouses, children and yes, we invite the retirees from our organization to join us if they are in town. At Christmas we get a little money from MWR.
Around the 2nd week of October we celebrate the end of the fiscal year. This harrowing hell begins around August 1st – until all the money is shut off, credit cards to $0 around the 20th of September. To re-group and appreciate our talents and just getting through the end of fy hell, we have a cookout. The main supervisors provide the meat, hotdogs or hamburgers, and everyone else brings a covered dish of some type. Spouses don’t go to this one as we all get a chance to chill out. It is usually held the Thursday or Friday before Columbus Day, as Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children are off to their 96, and customers are at a slow down. It’s not done all day, just for about an hour and half. If a customer comes in, he/she is served immediately, so that is never an issue.
As for the Thanksgiving and Christmas, they are all pot luck. We cook a pig or steaks, (the supervisors buy the meat), nothing comes out of government funds. Other organizations have been known to shut down for 1/2 day, (usually in the afternoon) for their Christmas luncheons.
In the spring we have a fish fry right around Easter time, again the marines are heading out for a 96. Pot lucks work for us as there are less than 30 of us and easy to pull together. Another organization has a field day cookout, they even have bean bag races, and other activities, but they don’t take all day and are scheduled around a spring or summer holiday.
January 18, 2012 at 1:31 pm #149664
And Julie, your organization must be DOD or Coast Guard, as you do get “a little money from MWR”. Am I correct?
January 18, 2012 at 10:25 pm #149662
Yes, you are correct.
January 18, 2012 at 10:51 pm #149660
Civilian agencies can still establish recreation or employee associations, like those listed at
http://www.recgov.org/. These associations sell logo merchandise (which boosts morale) and offers discounts on other merchandise, often running onsite stores. Any profits from these sales can be used on morale-boosting events, such as picnics or parties.
January 18, 2012 at 10:57 pm #149658
Our tenant command (Navy) has such a “store”, as I call it. My DH used to come home with “atta boy” awards, etc., would bring umbrellas, drink kozies, calculators, camping chairs, mouse pads. We don’t have anything like that because as I am told, our “tenant” command “produces” and we are “overhead”, so we don’t get a “store”. And you are not allowed to buy such items with a govcc, including lanyards, and badge holders for your CAC card. You have to purchase those out of your own pocket. Where my DH is, they give ’em away.
January 20, 2012 at 1:23 pm #149656
I’m thinking “DH” is “Dear Husband.” Most of these “stores” are now online to save overhead costs.
People underestimate the value of logo merchandize. I am a big believer in wearing your organization’s seal on your sleeve (or chest) with pride! These relatively inexpensive gifts make great non-monetary awards and really stretch that “1%” that we get for awards. Wear those shirts with pride, while giving some money back to improve morale!
January 20, 2012 at 6:52 pm #149654
This HR performance and development specialist believes that the ocassional team building event such as a retreat, picnic and HOLIDAY, not Christmas, party is a good idea. At the party I learned my big boss was having foot surgery just like I had, that several of my team members were great bakers just like me, that X catered the party, etc. We are relationship oriented human beings, not merely production units. The employees pay for the picnic and holiday party.
January 20, 2012 at 7:39 pm #149652
I agree Terry, however, such items have to come out of your own pocket, not gov funds. One of our other organizations got in a big trouble for purchasing T-shirts with the organizations logo on it. They didn’t think nothing of it and whomever has their govcc, “bought” the shirts. A big, big NO-NO. After that hulaballoo, every organization had an immediate audit of everything they purchased. The comptoller team came in and looked at every purchase made over the last year. If a card holder bought any “clothing”, this includes “rain coats”, “reflective rain gear”, sunglasses, hats, t-shirts, sweats, lanyards, the round pull type badge clips, clear plastic badge holders, “gloves” (other than for “safety”) (gloves to keep your hands warm are a no-no) and yes “food or drink” of any type. Awards are “once” a year, and not everyone gets an award. There are no attaboys either, like my DH’s command. Consider yourself lucky that “attaboys” are awarded….it’s not happening here.
January 20, 2012 at 7:41 pm #149650
January 20, 2012 at 7:51 pm #149648
Yes, we look forward to our pot lucks. And being in the “south”, we call it a “Christmas” luncheon and yes, “grace” is said before everyone eats. If you live in a red state, you will most likely not hear “Happy Holidays”. I know, “shocker”…… Merry Christmas is spelled out on bulletin boards entering the building, the office area and some of the industrial areas are decorated with “Merry Christmas” banners. The military band comes by every year and plays “Christmas Carols” for us and all the other civilian organizations. At my DH command, some of the supervisors dress up like Santa, and when the families come to their Christmas luncheon, he passes out presents to the kids. (of course the parents brought them in ahead of time and put them in Santa’s bag). We are very small and close knit here. If there is a death in the family, or child or grandchild born, or the employee is in the hospital, we have a Sunshine fund that purchases flowers/cards. Employees are “not” obligated to contribute. We are relationship oriented human beings and it is occasions like Christmas, Thanksgiving, 4th of July that bring us closer.
January 20, 2012 at 7:56 pm #149646
DoD, DoN, USMC (wasn’t sure if you were asking me). Oh and as for the Christmas decorations, NO you cannot buy decorations with a govcc or gov funds. Employees bring their own in and decorate their area.
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