Tags: GAO | purchases | utensils | employee | personal | items

GAO Tells Federal Workers to Bring Their Own Plastic Forks

By    |   Tuesday, 30 Dec 2014 08:22 PM

The government has a message to its workers who bring their lunches to the office: Don't forget utensils.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report that says Uncle Sam is not responsible for providing its workers with disposable silverware, cups, and plates.

Calling them "personal items," the GAO said in its report the lunchtime tools should not be purchased by government agencies for their employees unless they have "specific statutory authority to do so."

"The disposable cups, plates, and cutlery are primarily for the convenience of agency employees and thus constitute a personal expense," the report reads.

The topic came to light in 2009 when employees at the National Weather Service (NWS) signed a Memorandum of Understanding that said the agency would provide hand sanitizer, disinfectant sprays and wipes, tissues, paper towels, and disposable cups, plates, and utensils for employees.

The Department of Commerce, however, asked the GAO to take a closer look at the disposable items employees use for lunches. That agency ruled in 2013 the government should not be responsible for supplying those items, a decision to which National Weather Service employees objected.

The issue went to an arbitrator, who ruled the practice of buying those disposable items for employees "could help Commerce maintain a healthy work environment and that employee sickness could be an inconvenience to the agency," according to the report.

The issue was further debated in 2014 before the GAO announced its decision last week.

"Disposable cups, plates, and cutlery clearly constitute a personal expense," reads the GAO report, which was signed by the agency's General Counsel Susan A. Poling.

"Commerce has not demonstrated that using appropriated funds to provide these items would directly advance its statutory mission and that the benefit accruing to the government through the provision of these items outweighs the personal nature of the expense. Accordingly, appropriated funds are not available to pay for cups, plates, and cutlery for Commerce employees."

Meteorologist Dan Sobien, president of the National Weather Service employee organization, told The Washington Post he disagrees with the GAO's decision.

"In most places you can't run out to Burger King and grab a burger to bring back to work," he said of the NWS. "Many [employees] eat at their work station while monitoring weather.

"It's really a bizarre thing. There's no way this could cost them more than five or ten thousand dollars."

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The government has a message to its workers who bring their lunches to the office: Don't forget utensils. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report that says Uncle Sam is not responsible for providing its workers with disposable silverware,...
GAO, purchases, utensils, employee, personal, items
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2014-22-30
Tuesday, 30 Dec 2014 08:22 PM
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