Contractors Collecting Fees at Agency-Hosted Conferences
B-306663, Jan 4, 2006
Senator Mikulski asked us to revisit our March 2005 decision, National Institutes of Health--Food at Government-Sponsored Conferences, B-300826, Mar. 3, 2005. In that decision, we addressed the availability to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of its appropriation for the purpose of providing food to attendees at NIH-hosted conferences. In addition, in response to a question from NIH, we concluded that NIH may not charge an attendance fee at conferences and retain the proceeds, nor permit its contractor to do so, because NIH lacks statutory authority. Senator Mikulski expressed concern that this conclusion would reduce federal efforts to bring experts together at federally hosted conferences, particularly conferences hosted by the National Security Agency (NSA), to address evolving threats to the nation.
GAO found no basis to change our conclusion that when an agency lacks statutory authority to charge a fee at a conference and retain the proceeds, neither the agency hosting a conference, nor a contractor on behalf of the agency, may do so.