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  • Question

    Are we authorized to use the GCPC to procure office decoration or silk plants or any other décor to beautify the space. Would it be authorized if its placed in a common area that is accessed my multiple people?


    Answer

    Thank you for the question.  I would recommend that you check with your Service/Agency Policy regarding the Government Purchase Card question.  Also, I would recommend that you contact a contracting officer that supports your organization to inquire about his/her thoughts and also coordinate with your legal advisor pertaining to your question and answer.

    However, through some of our research, you may want to look at the GAO Redbook Volume 1 Chapter 4, C13.d Office Furnishings (Decorative Items) that may help you with this question.

    d. Office Furnishings (Decorative Items)

    An agency’s appropriations are available without question to furnish the space it occupies with such necessary items as desks, filing cabinets, and other ordinary office equipment. Questions occasionally arise when the item to be procured is decorative rather than utilitarian.

    The availability of appropriations for certain decorative items has long been recognized. In 7 Comp. Dec. 1 (1900), the Comptroller of the Treasury advised the Secretary of the Treasury that “paintings suitable for the decoration of rooms” were within the meaning of the term “furniture.”

    Therefore, an appropriation for the furnishing of public buildings was available to purchase cases and glass coverings for paintings of deceased judges. The paintings had been donated to the government for display in a courtroom.

    The Comptroller followed this decision in 9 Comp. Dec. 807 (1903), holding that Treasury appropriations were available to buy portraits as furniture for the Ellis Island immigration station if administratively determined “necessary for the public service.”

    Citing both of these decisions, the Comptroller General held in B-178225, Apr. 11, 1973, that the appropriation for Salaries and Expenses of the Tax Court was available for portraits of the Chief Judges of the Tax Court, to be hung (the portraits, not the judges) in the main courtroom. Similarly, the Tax Court could purchase artwork and other decorative items for judges’ individual offices. 64 Comp. Gen. 796 (1985).

    Other decisions approving the use of appropriated funds for decorative items are B-143886, Sept. 14, 1960 (oil painting of agency head for “historical purposes” and public display); B-121909, Dec. 9, 1954 (“solid walnut desk mount attached to a name plate”); B-114692, May 13, 1953 (framing of Presidential Certificates of Appointment for display in the appointee’s office).

    Purchase of decorative items for federal buildings is now covered in the Federal Property Management Regulations, 41 C.F.R. § 101.26.103-2 (2003).

    The regulations authorize expenditures for pictures, objects of art, plants, flowers (both artificial and real), and other similar items. However, such items may not be purchased solely for the personal convenience or to satisfy the personal desire of an official or employee.

    The regulation was discussed and the rule restated in 60 Comp. Gen. 580 (1981). Decorative items may be purchased if the purchase is consistent with work-related objectives and the items to be purchased are not  “personal convenience” items.164 The determination of “necessity” is within the agency’s discretion, subject to the regulations. The regulations apply equally to space leased by an agency in a privately owned building. See also 64 Comp. Gen. 796 (1985); 63 Comp. Gen. 110, 113 (1983).

    As noted, one type of permissible decorative item is plants. A restriction in a 1980 appropriation act prohibited the use of funds for plant maintenance contracts. The Comptroller General construed this provision to apply to office space to which particular federal employees were actually assigned.

    The provisions legislative history suggested that it was not intended to apply to outdoor plants or to plants in common areas that were not the assigned work space of any particular employee or group of employees. 59 Comp. Gen. 428 (1980).

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