Sep 16, 2015

By Kenneth J. Allen

In “fiscal law”? Yep. This topic is inexorably intertwined in government contracting – and many people avoid it as much as they can. It is perceived as a bizarre collection of obtuse rules that can have razor sharp consequences but are interpreted and applied by highly subjective views of facts and law. It is actually, quite comprehensible – and a firm grasp of it absolutely necessary for government acquisition and resource management officials, and highly advisable for contractors.   Our course is about the basics of fiscal law (and is always up-to-date); the fiscal law of government contracts; and the Antideficiency Act.

Controversy? The Government can’t even agree as to what branch renders binding interpretations and rulings on fiscal law for the Executive Branch agencies (who do most of the federal government’s contracting). The law gives that responsibility (and also the power to forgive executive branch employees from personal financial liability for their fiscal management errors) to Congress’s (yes – the spelling is correct!) Government Accountability Office. Well, the Attorney General, who is the head of the Department of Justice and the legal advisor to the Executive Branch, rejects those law as an unconstitutional intrusion by Congress into the domain of the Executive Branch. The Attorney General tells the Executive Branch people to get their legal opinions from their agency, and most people in the Executive Branch are unaware of that and keep asking the GAO for opinions – and the GAO keeps giving them (which is, after all what the laws tells them to do!). So who call the shots? We’ll explain all these issues and competing points of view.

Ambiguity? Oh yes. There are different ways people look at fiscal law issues, for example what year’s appropriation to use to fund a price increase to a contract.  We’ll explain all the different views.

Threats of Criminal Prosecution? This brings us to the Antideficiency Acts, which is a collection of fiscal laws, which carry administrative discipline and even criminal prosecution for those government personnel responsible for an “ADA” violation. We’ll explain all the laws, to include the disagreement between the GAO and Attorney General on an important aspect of fiscal law and the Antideficiency Act.

Our course begins with a look at the components and sources of “fiscal law,” and the key concepts of the “availability” of the appropriation, and what constitutes an “an obligation” of an appropriation.   From there we focus on the components of availability – purpose, time, and amount. Appropriations are available for specified purposes; most are available for limited fiscal years; and within dollar limits at the appropriation and apportionment levels. Along the way we’ll explain the “necessary expense doctrine” of purpose (and the GAO’s view on the availability of federal money for things that should be a personal expense); the “bona fide need rule” of the laws on time; and of course the Antideficiency Acts, with summaries of reported ADA violations. Also, since so many of the ADA violations occur in the course of government contracting, we’ll cover the most common contracting scenarios that pose opportunities for an ADA violation.

Centre’s Antideficiency Act webinar will give newcomers a firm base on the topic, and provide experienced practitioners with not only an update, but also perspectives and insights on this important topic.

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