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Promoting Efficient Conference Spending Policy

This Memorandum has been replaced by:

  • HHS Policy on Promoting Efficient Spending (June 24, 2013): Use of Appropriated Funds for Conferences and Meetings, Food, Promotional Items, and Printing and Publications
    • Attachment 1: HHS Policy on Use of Appropriated Funds for Conferences and Meeting Space (June 24, 2013)

May 15, 2013

To:           OPDIV and STAFFDIV Heads

From:        Ellen G. Murray
                Assistant Secretary for Financial Resources

Subject:     HHS Policy on Promoting Efficient Spending: Use of Appropriated Funds for Conferences and
                  Meeting Space, Food, Promotional Items, and Printing and Publications

The purpose of this memorandum is to implement changes to the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Policy on Promoting Efficient Spending: Use of Appropriated Funds for Conferences and Meeting Space to reflect the increased reporting requirements and enhanced controls required by Section 3003 of the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013.  This provision:

  1. Requires per-conference and annual reporting to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), including information not currently collected centrally.
  2. Requires HHS to broaden the activities defined as a conference.
  3. Restricts the use of funds appropriated in the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2013 or any FY 2013 appropriations Act for travel and conference activities unless they are consistent with OMB Memorandum M-12-12, and thus, makes it an Antideficiency Act (ADA) violation to use any FY 2013 funds for travel and conferences that are inconsistent with OMB Memorandum M-12-12. 

Specifically, Section 3003 states:

“(a) The head of any Executive branch department, agency, board, commission, or office funded by this or any other appropriations Act shall submit annual reports to the Inspector General or senior ethics official for any entity without an Inspector General, regarding the costs and contracting procedures related to each conference held by any such department, agency, board, commission, or office during fiscal year 2013 for which the cost to the United States Government was more than $100,000.

“(b) Each report submitted shall include, for each conference described in subsection (a) held during the applicable period—

(1) a description of its purpose;

(2) the number of participants attending;

(3) a detailed statement of the costs to the United States Government, including—

(A) the cost of any food or beverages;

(B) the cost of any audio-visual services;

(C) the cost of employee or contractor travel to and from the conference; and

(D) a discussion of the methodology used to determine which costs relate to the conference; and

(4) a description of the contracting procedures used including—

(A) whether contracts were awarded on a competitive basis; and

(B) a discussion of any cost comparison conducted by the departmental component or office in evaluating potential contractors for the conference.

“(c) Within 15 days of the date of a conference held by any Executive branch department, agency, board, commission, or office funded by this or any other appropriations Act during fiscal year 2013 for which the cost to the United States Government was more than $20,000, the head of any such department, agency, board, commission, or office shall notify the Inspector General or senior ethics official for any entity without an Inspector General, of the date, location, and number of employees attending such conference.

“(d) A grant or contract funded by amounts appropriated by this or any other appropriations Act to an Executive branch agency may not be used for the purpose of defraying the costs of a conference described in subsection (c) that is not directly and programmatically related to the purpose for which the grant or contract was awarded, such as a conference held in connection with planning, training, assessment, review, or other routine purposes related to a project funded by the grant or contract.

“(e) None of the funds made available in this or any other appropriations Act may be used for travel and conference activities that are not in compliance with Office of Management and Budget Memorandum M–12–12 dated May 11, 2012.”

Accordingly, the following changes are being made to the policy on the Use of Appropriated Funds for Conferences and Meeting Space, the revised version of which is attached:

1.         Annual Reporting: 

HHS’ current approach for reporting on conferences that exceed $100,000 will generally meet the majority of the requirements of subsections (a) and (b) above.  However, additional details will be required for the annual report to the OIG, such as the contracting procedures used to acquire support for each conference.  These new reporting requirements apply to all conferences held by HHS in FY 2013.  (See Attachment 1, section 1.4)

2.         Reporting of Conferences in Excess of $20,000:

To meet the requirements of subsection (c) above and ensure timely submission to the OIG, new reporting requirements have been established.  These reporting requirements apply to conferences held by HHS on or after March 26, 2013 (the enactment date of this provision).  (See Attachment 1, section 1.4)

3.         Grants and Contracts:

Although subsection (d) applies to grantees and contractors, it does not affect the conference-approval process.

4.         Compliance with OMB M-12-12, dated May 11, 2012:

OMB Memorandum M-12-12 established a definition for conferences; implemented the requirements for Deputy Secretary-level review and approval of conferences in excess of $100,000; and established a threshold of $500,000 for any single conference, which may be waived by the Secretary under exceptional circumstances.  Subsection (e) above makes it an Antideficiency Act violation to obligate, on or after March 26, any funds made available by an FY 2013 appropriations act (whether for conference hosting, travel, per diem, or any other miscellaneous cost) for a conference whose total cost to HHS from all sources exceeds the thresholds above unless the appropriate approvals were received in advance.  Therefore, to meet the requirements of subsection (e) above, the definition of conference is revised to be consistent with OMB, the approval threshold for the Deputy Secretary’s approval is reduced (reflecting the difficulty of capturing all travel and miscellaneous costs accurately), and the requirement to obtain approval prior to the obligation of funds is reinforced.  (See Attachment 1, section 1.3)

These policy revisions are effective immediately and apply to all sources of funds (whether from an annual appropriation, multi-year appropriation, no year appropriation, appropriated user fee, mandatory appropriation, gift funds, or reimbursements from such appropriations, etc.), as well as non-appropriated funds, i.e., those set by law, etc. 

The January 3, 2012 policies on the Use of Appropriated Funds for Food (Attachment 2), Promotional Items (Attachment 3), and Printing and Publications (Attachment 4) remain in full force and effect.

Please share this transmittal memorandum and the attached policies with all appropriate officials within your OPDIV or STAFFDIV.  Questions regarding this policy may be addressed to Clarence Randall, Office of Grants and Acquisition Policy and Accountability (OGAPA), at clarence.randall@hhs.gov.

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Related Documents

Attachment 1: HHS Policy on Use of Appropriated Funds for Conferences and Meeting Space

Exhibit 1: Report on Conferences Held by HHS OPDIVs and STAFFDIVs in Excess of $20,000