Government Contracting Database
The Anti-Deficiency Act prohibits federal employees from:
- Making or authorizing an expenditure from, or creating or authorizing an obligation under, any appropriation or fund in excess of the amount available in the appropriation or fund unless authorized by law. 31 U.S.C. § 1341(a)(1)(A).
- Involving the government in any obligation to pay money before funds have been appropriated for that purpose unless otherwise allowed by law. 31 U.S.C. § 1341(a)(1)(B).
- Accepting voluntary services for the United States, or employing personal services not authorized by law, except in cases of emergency involving the safety of human life or the protection of property. 31 U.S.C. § 1342.
- Making obligations or expenditures in excess of an apportionment or reapportionment, or in excess of the amount permitted by agency regulations. 31 U.S.C. § 1517(a).
Federal employees who violate the Anti-Deficiency Act are subject to two types of sanctions: administrative and penal. Employees may be subject to appropriate administrative discipline including, when circumstances warrant, suspension from duty without pay or removal from office. In addition, employees may also be subject to fines, imprisonment, or both.
Once it is determined that there has been a violation of 31 U.S.C. §§ 1341(a), 1342, or 1517(a), the agency head “shall report immediately to the President and Congress all relevant facts and a statement of actions taken.” 31 U.S.C. §§ 1351, 1517(b). The reports are to be signed by the agency head. The report to the President is to be forwarded through the Director of OMB. In addition, the heads of executive branch agencies and the Mayor of the District of Columbia shall also transmit “[a] copy of each report . . . to the Comptroller General on the same date, the report is transmitted to the President and Congress.” 31 U.S.C. §§ 1351, 1517(b), as amended by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005, Pub. L. No. 108-447, div. G, title II, § 1401, 118 Stat. 2809, 3192 (Dec. 8, 2004).
OMB has issued further instructions on preparing the reports, which may be found in OMB Circular No. A-11, Preparation, Submission, and Execution of the Budget, § 145 (June 21, 2005). The report is to include all pertinent facts and a statement of all actions taken to address and correct the Anti-Deficiency Act violation (such as administrative discipline imposed, referral to the Justice Department where appropriate, and new safeguards imposed). An agency also should include a request for a supplemental or deficiency appropriation when needed.
What if GAO uncovers a violation but the agency thinks GAO is wrong? The agency must still make the required reports and must include an explanation of its disagreement.
For more information on the Anti-Deficiency Act purpose, history, and requirements see Chapter 6, Availability of Appropriations: Amount.
Updated: May 24, 2018