B-196838.OM, APR 3, 1980

B-196838.OM: Apr 3, 1980

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THE LIKE IN WHICH THE EMPLOYEES PARTICIPATE WHEN THE EMPLOYEES ARE ON ANNUAL LEAVE WHILE ATTENDING THE SESSIONS AND THERE IS NO REAL OR APPARENT CONFLICT OF INTEREST. THE TAX STATUS OF THE PARTICULAR ORGANIZATION IS RELEVANT ONLY INSOFAR AS THE EMPLOYEE'S TRAVEL IS PERFORMED IN AN OFFICIAL CAPACITY. OR IF THE EXPENSES OF ATTENDING THE COURSE OR MEETING ARE PAID FULLY OR IN PART BY THE GOVERNMENT AGENCY. THE ACCEPTANCE OF SUCH CONTRIBUTIONS AND PAYMENTS UNDER THIS AUTHORITY IS GOVERNED BY 5 C.F.R. 410.701-410.706 AND IS PERMISSIBLE ONLY INSOFAR AS AUTHORIZED BY THE HEAD OF THE AGENCY IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS ENUMERATED IN 5 C.F.R. 410.702. WHERE THE EMPLOYEE IS TRAVELING IN A NONPAY STATUS ON HIS OWN TIME.

B-196838.OM, APR 3, 1980

SUBJECT: GAO EMPLOYEES' ACCEPTANCE OF HONORARIA, ETC., WHILE ON ANNUAL LEAVE B-196838-O.M.

DIRECTOR OF PERSONNEL, FELIX R. BRANDON II

IN MEMORANDUM OF NOVEMBER 16, 1979, THE CHIEF, LMER BRANCH, PERSONNEL, INQUIRED WHETHER GAO COULD LEGALLY BAR ACCEPTANCE BY GAO EMPLOYEES OF HONORARIA, TRAVEL EXPENSES, SUBSISTENCE EXPENSES, OR OTHER PAYMENTS FROM ORGANIZATIONS WHICH SPONSOR SYMPOSIA, CONFERENCES, COURSES, AND THE LIKE IN WHICH THE EMPLOYEES PARTICIPATE WHEN THE EMPLOYEES ARE ON ANNUAL LEAVE WHILE ATTENDING THE SESSIONS AND THERE IS NO REAL OR APPARENT CONFLICT OF INTEREST.

ALTHOUGH YOUR MEMORANDUM SUGGESTS THAT CONTRIBUTIONS AND PAYMENTS MAY BE ACCEPTED ONLY FROM TAX EXEMPT ORGANIZATIONS, AN EMPLOYEE ATTENDING A CONFERENCE OR OTHER EVENT WHILE ON ANNUAL LEAVE MAY ACCEPT TRAVEL EXPENSES AND OTHER PAYMENTS REGARDLESS OF THE TAX STATUS OF THE DONOR. THE TAX STATUS OF THE PARTICULAR ORGANIZATION IS RELEVANT ONLY INSOFAR AS THE EMPLOYEE'S TRAVEL IS PERFORMED IN AN OFFICIAL CAPACITY. IF AN EMPLOYEE TRAVELS EITHER PARTIALLY OR WHOLLY IN A PAY STATUS, OR IF THE EXPENSES OF ATTENDING THE COURSE OR MEETING ARE PAID FULLY OR IN PART BY THE GOVERNMENT AGENCY, HE MAY RECEIVE CONTRIBUTIONS AND PAYMENTS IN ACCORDANCE WITH 5 U.S.C. 4111. THE ACCEPTANCE OF SUCH CONTRIBUTIONS AND PAYMENTS UNDER THIS AUTHORITY IS GOVERNED BY 5 C.F.R. 410.701-410.706 AND IS PERMISSIBLE ONLY INSOFAR AS AUTHORIZED BY THE HEAD OF THE AGENCY IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS ENUMERATED IN 5 C.F.R. 410.702. SEE 46 COMP.GEN. 689 (1967), 47 ID. 319 (1967), 572 (1970), 55 ID. 1293 (1976), B-171751, FEBRUARY 11, 1971, AND B-115392, MAY 10, 1976.

HOWEVER, WHERE THE EMPLOYEE IS TRAVELING IN A NONPAY STATUS ON HIS OWN TIME, HAS CLEARED HIS PROPOSED PARTICIPATION IN ADVANCE, AND THERE IS NO REAL OR APPARENT CONFLICT OF INTEREST, WE HAVE TAKEN THE POSITION STATED IN B-130082-O.M., APRIL 14, 1975, THAT GAO SHOULD NOT BE CONCERNED WITH THE EMPLOYEE'S ACCEPTANCE OF REIMBURSEMENT FOR EXPENSES. THIS WOULD ALSO BE TRUE OF HIS ACCEPTANCE OF HONORARIA, EXCEPT INSOFAR AS ANY HONORARIUM EXCEEDS $2,000, OR HONORARIA AGGREGATE MORE THAN $25,000 IN ANY CALENDAR YEAR IN VIOLATION OF 2 U.S.C. 441I.

YOUR MEMORANDUM NOTES THAT CURRENT GAO POLICY, AS EXPRESSED IN GAO ORDER 0841.1 AT CHAPTER 2, PARA. 5, PERMITS SUCH REIMBURSEMENTS WHEN THE EMPLOYEE IS TRAVELING ON OTHER THAN OFFICIAL BUSINESS. THIS POLICY IS CONSISTENT WITH THE FOLLOWING LANGUAGE OF 5 C.F.R. 735.202F:

"(F) NEITHER THIS SECTION NOR SEC. 735.203 PRECLUDES AN EMPLOYEE FROM RECEIPT OF BONA FIDE REIMBURSEMENT, UNLESS PROHIBITED BY LAW, FOR EXPENSES OF TRAVEL AND SUCH OTHER NECESSARY SUBSISTENCE AS IS COMPATIBLE WITH THIS PART FOR WHICH NO GOVERNMENT PAYMENT OR REIMBURSEMENT IS MADE. HOWEVER, THIS PARAGRAPH DOES NOT ALLOW AN EMPLOYEE TO BE REIMBURSED, OR PAYMENT TO BE MADE ON HIS BEHALF, FOR EXCESSIVE PERSONAL LIVING EXPENSES, GIFTS, ENTERTAINMENT, OR OTHER PERSONAL BENEFITS, NOR DOES IT ALLOW AN EMPLOYEE TO BE REIMBURSED BY A PERSON FOR TRAVEL ON OFFICIAL BUSINESS UNDER AGENCY ORDERS WHEN REIMBURSEMENT IS PROSCRIBED BY DECISION B-128527 OF THE COMPTROLLER GENERAL DATED MARCH 7, 1967 (46 COMP.GEN. 689)."

IN B-128527, AUGUST 11, 1967, WE STATED THAT THE FIRST SENTENCE OF THE ABOVE-QUOTED REGULATION APPLIED "TO SITUATIONS IN WHICH THE EMPLOYEE IS ON LEAVE OR OTHERWISE IS IN A NONOFFICIAL DUTY STATUS AT THE TIME OF THE MEETING OR FUNCTION ON ACCOUNT OF WHICH THE DONATION IS MADE." AND, REGARDING THE ACCEPTANCE OF REIMBURSEMENT FOR TRAVEL AND OTHER EXPENSES BY EMPLOYEES ATTENDING MEETINGS CONDUCTED BY PRIVATELY SPONSORED ORGANIZATIONS, WE STATED IN B-128524, JUNE 7, 1968:

"*** IF AN EMPLOYEE AT THE TIME OF ATTENDANCE AT THE MEETING IS NOT IN AN OFFICIAL DUTY STATUS - ON LEAVE OF ABSENCE WITH OR LEAVE WITHOUT PAY - AND IF SUCH TRAVEL IS NOT PERFORMED PURSUANT TO AUTHORITY OR DIRECTION OF THE AGENCY *** AS FAR AS OUR OFFICE IS CONCERNED, THE EMPLOYEE WOULD NOT BE PRECLUDED FROM ACCEPTING THE GIFT."

ABSENT A GAO POLICY TO THE CONTRARY, EMPLOYEES MAY ACCEPT HONORARIA, TRAVEL EXPENSES OR OTHER PAYMENTS WHILE ON ANNUAL LEAVE (PROVIDED THERE IS NO REAL OR APPARENT CONFLICT OF INTEREST). OFFICE POLICY, HOWEVER, MAY ADMINISTRATIVELY RESTRICT OUTSIDE EMPLOYMENT OR SIMILAR ACTIVITIES SUCH AS PARTICIPATION IN SEMINARS SPONSORED BY OUTSIDE ORGANIZATIONS FOR APPROPRIATE REASONS, SUCH AS INCOMPATIBILITY WITH THE FULL AND PROPER DISCHARGE OF ONE'S DUTIES. SEE GAO ORDER 0841, CHAPTER 4.1, WHICH PRESENTLY HAS SUCH RESTRICTIONS.