Public Celebration of Independence Day

B-205292: Jun 2, 1982

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A Navy disbursing officer requested an advance decision on whether appropriated funds could be used to pay the costs of an Independence Day fireworks display. In the past, the Naval station has contracted for, and provided fireworks displays for the general public on Independence Day. When the disbursing officer informally asked the Comptroller of the Navy whether the expenditure of appropriated funds for fireworks was appropriate, the Comptroller replied in the negative. The Naval station contended that expenditures for fireworks displays are authorized by a public affairs regulation. However, the Navy interpreted this regulation as not authorizing fireworks displays as part of public observances. Further, the Navy considered fireworks to be entertainment. GAO has consistently held that appropriated funds may not be used for entertainment except when specifically authorized by statute. Since the Navy has classified fireworks as entertainment, GAO agreed with the Navy Comptroller's conclusion and denied a request for a one-time waiver of the regulations because appropriated funds must be spent only for the purposes for which they were appropriated. GAO suggested that nonappropriated recreation funds be used to pay for the fireworks display.

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