HHS Policy on the Use of Appropriated Funds for Promotional Items

3.1 General

It is the Department’s policy that OPDIVs and STAFFDIVs shall not use appropriated funds (whether from an annual appropriation, multi-year appropriation, appropriated user fee, mandatory appropriation, gift funds, or reimbursements from such appropriations, etc.) to purchase promotional items when they are not a necessary expense[1].  

Promotional items include, but are not limited to: clothing and commemorative items such as pens, mugs/cups, folders/folios, lanyards, and conference bags that are sometimes provided to visitors, employees, grantees, or conference attendees.  Typically, items or tokens to be given to individuals are considered personal gifts for which appropriated funds may not be expended.  Only in rare cases – that is, where the OPDIV or STAFFDIV can demonstrate that the promotional items are necessary expenses that directly further its mission – may such items be purchased.  

3.2 Approval Requirements

Any such necessary expense justification must be in writing, explain why the purchase is a necessary expense that is critical to the mission and why the costs are considered reasonable, and be included in the associated administrative file, such as the purchase card request or contract file.  

Approval of such justifications shall be made by an appropriate OPDIV or STAFFDIV official as determined and designated the OPDIV or STAFFDIV Head.

3.3 Implementation Requirements

OPDIVs and STAFFDIVs shall implement internal policies and practices to ensure consistency across their organizations regarding the documentation and approval of requests to purchase promotional items.

3.4 Additional Information

This policy may be supplemented as appropriate through questions and answers published on the OGAPA website (http://www.hhs.gov/asfr/ogapa/index.html).  Questions regarding this policy may be addressed to Angela Billups, Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Acquisition, at Angela.Billups@hhs.gov.


[1] Necessary Expense Rule:  See GAO's Principles of Federal Appropriations Law, 4-19, for additional information.  Additionally, when applying the necessary expense rule, an expenditure may be justified after meeting a three-part test:

  1. The expenditure must bear a logical relationship to the appropriation sought to be charged. In other words, it must make a direct contribution to carrying out either a specific appropriation or an authorized agency function for which more general appropriations are available.
  2. The expenditure must not be prohibited by law.
  3. The expenditure must not be otherwise provided for, that is, it must not be an item that falls within the scope of some other appropriation or statutory funding scheme.


Content created by Division of Acquisition
Content last reviewed