A decision was requested as to whether an agency may legally reimburse an employee for the cost of a luncheon sponsored by another agency. Apparently there were no other activities connected with this meeting either before or after the luncheon. Agency appropriations are available for the expenses of attending a meeting concerned with the function of the activity for which the applicable appropriation is made. However, as a general rule, an employee may not be paid a per diem allowance in lieu of subsistence at his permanent duty station, regardless of any unusual working conditions. GAO has allowed reimbursement of a registration fee incident to an employee's attendance at a conference at his headquarters where meals were furnished at no additional charge. In cases where a meal is not part of a registration fee, GAO has allowed reimbursement for its cost if the meal was incidental to a meeting or attendance at the meal was necessary for full participation in the meeting. Attendance at this luncheon was readily distinguishable from these cases. Here, the agency held the luncheon programs as an adjunct to its day-to-day operations. Absent specific legislative authority, such as required attendance at meals held incident to training sessions, GAO views meal costs of employees attending a luncheon meeting at headquarters as an expense that is to be borne by the employee. Accordingly, the employee may not be reimbursed for the luncheons at his official duty station.
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