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Financing of Conferences and Seminars

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DATE: November 1, 1995

TO: Senior Financial Officers,

Senior Full Time Financial Officers, Functional Heads of Administration

SUBJECT: Financing of Conferences and Seminars

With the recent expenditure reductions announced in the budget, departments are intensifying their search for ways to reduce program costs. One area some departments are investigating is the financing of conferences and seminars which are organized as part of their program delivery. The need for cost savings in this area was noted in a letter of June 28, 1995 concerning the management of travel and conferences sent by the Secretary of the Treasury Board to Deputy Heads. The purpose of this bulletin is to explain several of the financing options available when sponsoring conferences.


The traditional method for funding conferences has been for departments to pay all the costs directly from their appropriations. While this method is easy to administer, it does not reduce the cost to the government or to departments of running the conference. The following are alternative financing options which departments may wish to consider


Costs can be shared between two or more departments, two or more levels of government or a department and a private sector entity. The cost-sharing agreement can be structured in such a way that each party is responsible for paying the cost of certain portions of the conference or that the department pays for the conference and is then reimbursed by the other party for its agreed share of the costs. In either case, the department's share of the costs would be paid from its appropriation.

Funds reimbursed by other levels of government or private sector entities under such an agreement could be credited to the department's appropriation in accordance with section 39(e) of the Financial Administration Act, provided the reimbursement is made in the same fiscal year as the expenditure; otherwise, the reimbursement must be credited to the Consolidated Revenue Fund as non-tax revenue.

Note: fees charged to attendees and exhibitors do not qualify as "cost-sharing" and, therefore, must be treated as a cost-recovery (see section 3, below).


As explained below, there are three authorities which permit departments to recover costs through the charging of fees. However, regardless of which authority is used, a department may only respend revenues derived from fees if it has respending authority embodied in departmental or program legislation, or has special spending authority to operate under net voting or to operate a revolving fund. If a department does not have such authority, any fees collected must be credited to the Consolidated Revenue Fund as

non-tax revenue and cannot be credited to the department's appropriation. Neither can the fees be deposited to a "suspense account" and used to pay for conference expenses. In addition, in accordance with section 19(2) of the Financial Administration Act, the fees charged cannot exceed the cost to the department of providing the conference regardless of which of the three authorities is used.

The first authority is found in departmental legislation, both program legislation and the legislation which created the department. This authority is rarely used to recover conference costs as the fees charged may require publication in the Canada Gazette or approval of the Governor-in-Council.

The second authority is found in general legislation such as section 19 of the Financial Administration Act. Again, this authority is rarely used to recover conference costs as any fees charged must be "by order" or "by regulation" and are subject to the regulatory review process.

The third authority, and the one which applies most directly to conferences, is a minister's authority to contract. In effect, registering for the conference becomes a "contract" between the department and the attendee, permitting the department to charge a fee for attending the conference.


Another method of funding conferences is to accept donations. While this section discusses factors to consider when receiving donations, departments should not construe an explanation of this option as encouragement of, or approval for, the soliciting of funds through donations. When considering such a method, departments must first ensure that receiving funds in this manner is appropriate and does not create a conflict of interest situation.

Funds donated by outside parties can be credited to a consolidated budgetary specified purpose account and used to pay for conference costs only if, in return, the outside party receives no commensurate goods, services or tangible benefit, apart from a possible tax receipt for a "gift to the Crown" (where it qualifies in accordance with Revenue Canada taxation requirements). Examples of no tangible benefit would include printing of the company logo on advertising, mentioning the company as a sponsor of the conference, etc. Payments that would not qualify as donations, and must be treated as per section 3 above, include: registrations and attendance fees, licensing fees, advertising and concession revenues, fees or charges for booths and exhibit space, etc.


Alternatively, the conference could be organized and run completely by an outside party, such as the Financial Management Institute, the Treasury Management Association, the Data Processing Institute, etc. as a non-government conference. The outside party would be responsible for setting and collecting the fees (which revenue would accrue to them) and paying any bills. Any such arrangement must be set up carefully so that it cannot be construed as a contractual arrangement on behalf of, or as agent for, the department. Otherwise, it would then be subject to the same restrictions on the collection of fees mentioned above in section 3.

If desired, departments could subsidize the costs by making a contribution to the outside party in accordance with the Treasury Board policy on Grants and Contributions, in which case the contribution agreement must be worded carefully to make it very clear that the conference is non-governmental.

6. For more information please contact Bruce Hirst, Financial Authorities Division at 957-7168.

R.J. Neville

Assistant Secretary and Assistant Comptroller General
Financial and Contract Management Sector

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