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This can be done, but only in very specific circumstances. The General Accountability Office (GAO) has determined that an agency can offer an incentive for completing customer satisfaction surveys only when collecting the information is -
directly related to the completion of the agency's mission, and
explicitly authorized by statute.
In its decision B286536, "In the Matter of: Prize Drawings by General Services Administration's Public Buildings Service," November 17, 2000, GAO determined it is permissible to offer and pay for these incentives under these particular circumstances.
GAO allows agencies to use appropriated funds to provide prizes to individuals to promote the collection of information necessary for the accomplishment of the agency's statutory mandate. The authorizing legislation for the Public Buildings Service (PBS) specifically requires PBS to survey its Federal customers. PBS felt it could increase its survey response rate by offering prizes distributed through a raffle drawing from among the survey respondents. After reviewing the specific legislation requiring PBS to conduct these surveys and with the caution that PBS should check with the Office of Management and Budget, GAO said it would be permissible to use appropriated funds to pay for the raffle prizes to be awarded to selected survey respondents. GAO finds that these prizes are intended to directly support fulfilling PBS' mandate to conduct surveys.
Please note that this in no way involves the use of the Government's employee awards authority set forth in chapter 45 of title 5, United States Code. Agencies grant awards under chapter 45 as incentives for, or in recognition of, employee contributions to the economy, efficiency, or effectiveness of Government operations. This GAO decision looks very specifically at the PBS statutory mandate to conduct the surveys and addresses only the use of its mission-related appropriated funds. Current OPM policy does not support including the element of chance (e.g., as it occurs with a raffle drawing) in an employee awards program established under chapter 45.
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