Skip to Highlights
Highlights

Appropriations/Financial Management Appropriation Availability Purpose availability Representational funds Meals The Director of the Trade and Development Program (TDP) may use "representation and entertainment" fund to pay the cost of meals at interagency briefings for executive branch employees hosted by him in his official capacity since the TDP briefings given by the Director are representational in nature and occur during regular business hours. We conclude that the Director of TDP's briefings are representational and the entertainment fund is available to pay for the meals described by the certifying officer. He was presented with five vouchers totaling $166.66 for the costs of providing lunches to executive branch employees participating in briefings hosted by the Director of TDP.

View Decision

Trade and Development Program--Use of Representation and Entertainment Funds to Pay for Meals B-250988 September 2, 1993 72 Comp.Gen. 310

Appropriations/Financial Management Appropriation Availability Purpose availability Representational funds Meals The Director of the Trade and Development Program (TDP) may use "representation and entertainment" fund to pay the cost of meals at interagency briefings for executive branch employees hosted by him in his official capacity since the TDP briefings given by the Director are representational in nature and occur during regular business hours.

DECISION A certifying officer of the United States Agency for International Development asked our opinion whether an appropriation for "representation and entertainment" for the Trade and Development Program (TDP) may be used to pay for meals served at interagency briefings conducted by TDP's Director. As explained in further detail below, we conclude that the Director of TDP's briefings are representational and the entertainment fund is available to pay for the meals described by the certifying officer.

BACKGROUND

The TDP finances project-planning services for major development projects in the developing world to foster economic development and to enhance the use of U.S. technology, goods, and services in project implementation. Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 1993 App. 1-236 (1992). According to the certifying officer, he was presented with five vouchers totaling $166.66 for the costs of providing lunches to executive branch employees participating in briefings hosted by the Director of TDP. The meetings were called by the new Director of TDP to brief key executive branch officials on how TDP operates and to discuss how their agencies could coordinate their programs.

There were 10-12 meetings during fiscal year 1992[3] each attended by at least four high level officials from agencies like the Office of Management and Budget, the Export Import Bank, the National Security Council, and the White House. Typically, the briefings began at 11 a.m., lasted an average of three hours, and were held in an official conference room. As part of every briefing, the regional directors for each of TDP's Regional Offices made individual presentations concerning TDP's regional operations.

TDP and its legal counsel contend that the costs of the meals are proper charges to TDP's "representation and entertainment" (R&E) fund. The certifying officer believes that prior decisions of the Comptroller General, particularly B-223678, June 5, 1989, prohibit the use of the R&E fund for the payment of such costs. As explained in further detail below, we agree with TDP's legal counsel that the costs may be paid.

ANALYSIS

Congress provides agencies with representation and entertainment expenses in a number of different ways. Typically, Congress provides appropriated funds for the official "reception and representation" (OR & R) expenses of an agency. In TDP's case, however, Congress annually makes a set amount of TDP's appropriations available for "representation and entertainment." See, e.g., Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriation Act Pub. L. No. 102-391, Sec. 509, 106 Stat. 1657 (1992) (providing, in part, "that of the funds made available by this Act under the heading `Trade and Development Programs' not to exceed $2,000 shall be available for representation and entertainment allowances.").

Our Office has consistently held that OR & R accounts provide specific authority to use government funds for expenditures typically classified as, or in the nature of, entertainment or entertainment related activities. Our decisions recognize that such funds are available only for authorized official activities. 68 Comp.Gen. 222, 228 (1989); B-243676, July 3, 1991. We have specifically cautioned agencies in the past that while they have substantial discretion in the use of such funds, such discretion is not unlimited. Id. Thus, in B-223678, June 5, 1989, we advised the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) that OR & R funds were not available to defray the costs of before and after hours business meetings involving USTR and other executive branch employees.

We think the present case, however, differs from the USTR case. The Director of TDP, new to his position, was present at all the briefings and personally briefed executive branch officials on how TDP operates. The purpose of the meetings was clearly representational. As noted earlier, the meetings were called by the new TDP Director to meet and brief his executive branch counterparts on TDP's mission and to explore ways for their respective agencies to coordinate their programs. In the USTR case, there were no indications that the U.S. Trade Representative was present at any of the meetings in question or that the working sections involved were in any way representational.

Accordingly, we conclude that the Director's briefings are representational in nature and TDP's R&E appropriations are available for the above mentioned expenses.

3. We note that the Director ceased serving meals after the second or third meeting when he was advised that using the reception and entertainment fund might be inappropriate.

GAO Contacts