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Business Procedures Manual

19.7 Employee Group Meals

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The purpose of this section is to provide guidance regarding situations in which an employer might purchase meals for a group of employees when such employees may not be on travel status or otherwise eligible for payment for meals.

In accordance with O.C.G.A. 50-5B-5, the State Accounting Office, in cooperation with the Office of Planning and Budget, is responsible for the development and dissemination of travel policy. Included in the travel policy is a methodology for requesting exceptions. The number of instances in which requests for exceptions related to the employer purchase of meals for a group of employees, led both the State Accounting Office and the Office of Planning and Budget to recognize the need for a policy to address this issue, which the BOR is also adopting. This policy is detailed in Section 19.7.1 below.

The USG also recognized the need to address and regulate purchases made in support of the various multi-institutional events, such as advisory councils to the BOR, training events, meetings for Presidents, Chief Business Officers, Chief Academic Officers, etc. The policy governing purchases made for these multi-institutional events is detailed in Section 19.7.2 below.

19.7.1 Employee Group Meals within an Institution

Under certain infrequent circumstances, employees may be required to remain at the work site during mealtime. Such circumstances include emergency situations such as natural disasters or significant public safety events, but may also include intra-departmental meetings or training sessions, where the meeting or training session continues during the meal and the employees are not permitted to leave the premises of the meeting site.

USG institutions shall use the following standards when deciding whether a meal may be purchased under this policy:

  1. Group meals should be held only to facilitate the effective and efficient operations of the departments involved. For example, it may be that scheduling an intra-departmental meeting or training session is the most effective and efficient use of employees’ time given teaching schedules, other meeting commitments, etc. In this instance, requiring employees to participate in a meeting over lunch may be the best means available to get the required participants in the same place for the period of time required.

  2. Group meals should only be provided in those instances where the meeting lasts for at least four (4) hours. A meeting less than four hours could generally be scheduled prior to or after a normal meal without significantly impacting employees on different work schedules.

  3. Group meals held at the start and/or finish of a meeting are not eligible for payment under this policy. Purchase of a group meal is authorized solely as a convenience to the employer and in those instances where employees may not leave for a normal meal due to the time constraints associated with the meeting or training session. Those events not starting until the normal meal time should be delayed until after the normal meal time, or employees may bring employee-purchased food (“brown-bag”) to the meeting.

  4. Purchase of group meals should be approved by the head of the organization, or his/her designee, prior to the date of the event (for non-emergency situations). The prior approval request should include:

    • The purpose of the meeting or event;
    • A formal written agenda including session times;
    • A list of attendees with their associated departments/entities; and,
    • The expected cost of the meal per person.

    All of the documents that were a part of the prior approval package should be submitted with the payment request along with the signed prior approval. All documents should be retained with the voucher package for audit purposes.

  5. Authorized group meal expenditures are limited to the purchase of meals only and do not include snacks.

  6. Meal limits outlined in BPM Section 4.4, Per Diem Allowance for Meals, must be followed. However, the meal limits apply to the actual food and drink purchased for the meal. Set-up and delivery costs associated with the group meal shall not be included in the meal limit calculation.

  7. Group meals for a “lunch meeting,” in which the meal and the meeting are one and the same, are prohibited for payment under this policy.

These meals should be charged to the 727700 expenditure account, “Other Operating Expenses – Special Group Meals.” The “Special Group Meals” expenditure account should only be used for such meal purchases. Once again, documentation of the purchase must be retained as outlined above. This account will be subject to special audit scrutiny, to ensure that such expenditures are infrequent, rather than routine.

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19.7.2 Employee Group Meals Involving Multiple Institutions

Efficient and effective administration of USG institutions may require instances when various groups of university officials, such as presidents, executive officers, or employees representing functional areas such as student activities, academic affairs, business affairs, etc., may be required to meet. The purpose of these meetings must support the official business purpose of the institutions represented.

These events are often sponsored by a USG institution or by the University System Office and are supported through the use of registration fees charged to participants. These registration fees may be reimbursed by the participant’s home institution and may be used for expenses such as speaker fees, room rentals, equipment charges, food for meals and breaks, and items directly related to the purpose of the meeting. Funds collected by the sponsoring institution are normally collected in and expended from an agency account created for that purpose as specified in BPM Section 14.5.1.

It is recognized that these events may often be held at a conference center or similar facility in order to facilitate these events. Additionally, conference events are usually scheduled to require participation on-site for the duration of the conference in order to maximize use of available time. Releasing participants to purchase off-site meals is time-consuming and does not allow for best use of limited time resources. As a result, USG institutions and the USO will often contract with catering services to provide food for on-site meals and snack breaks.

This policy is being provided to both recognize the legitimacy of these purchases and to enumerate the requirements governing these purchases. USG institutions shall use the following standards when deciding whether purchases are valid as made under this policy:

  1. Group meals held at the finish of a conference event are not eligible for payment under this policy. Purchase of a group meal is authorized solely as a convenience to the employer and in those instances where employees may not leave for a normal meal due to the time constraints associated with the meeting or training session.

  2. Purchases for conference events should include appropriate documentation to include:

    • The purpose of the meeting or event;
    • A formal written agenda including session times;
    • A list of attendees with their associated institutions; and,
    • The expected cost of the meal per person.
  3. Reasonable purchases may be made for refreshment breaks.

  4. Every effort should be made to negotiate reasonable meal costs. However, it is recognized that catered event charges will often exceed the per diem limits outlined in BPM Section 4.4. Catered meal events shall be held only to facilitate conference events and not for social or entertainment purposes. Under no circumstances will any institutional funds as defined in Section 19.8 be used to purchase alcohol.

Employees provided a meal pursuant to this policy shall not be permitted to claim per diem on their travel expense statement as specified in BPM Section 4.4.1.

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