Can petty cash be used to buy food at Costco for University employees' recognition of service?

My department is recognizing two employees for their length of service, and the department chair would like to have light refreshments using department funds. Can I use our petty cash fund to buy food at Costco?

This question involves several issues:

1) Having food at an office meeting
2) Using petty cash to purchase food
3) Purchasing food from Costco

Issue #1:
If food is provided at an office meeting, the meeting/food for the event needs to be consistent with the UC Entertainment policy. In this case, policy does allow light refreshments for recognition of service. A Payment Request for Business Meetings and Entertainment needs to be completed and approved in accordance with the policy (see instructions).

Issue #2:
It is never appropriate to use petty cash funds to purchase food. Petty cash funds are meant to provide for the purchase of certain low value items other than food. If an employee uses their own funds to purchase food and is approved for reimburs ement, a Payment Request for Business Meetings and Entertainment should be used. (Please refer to the campus Petty Cash Policy for additional information.)

Issue #3:
The Campus Food Policy states that University Center (UCEN) Catering, Residential Dining Special Events Catering, or the Faculty Club are the primary sources for al l food provided on campus. However, if none of the campus caterers are able to provide service for your event, the UCEN Catering Manager has a list of approved vendors that you may select as an alternate provider. These vendors have been approved becaus e they have the appropriate food and health permits and have the correct amount of liability insurance according to Business Services. Using a vendor not on the approved list subjects the University to liability and puts the department and employees at r isk - for among other things, accidental food poisoning!

The Campus Food Policy does allow the following:

"Individuals may provide light refreshments for meetings or have potlucks for department gatherings only when basic sanitary practices and campus and industry health standards are met. The Health and Safety Code may be obtained from Environmental Health and Safety."

Although using Costco can sometimes result in a financial savings to a department, there are other costs involved. Think about the time it takes for an employee to go to Costco and return to work, approximately 30 minutes to one hour. Everyone's time is valuable - is the department really saving money by not using a campus caterer? Second, what if an employee is injured during the trip to Costco, or gets into an accident? Just think about these additional costs/risks when making the decision to use ou tside caterers or to buy the food from a vendor such as Costco. Remember, if a department does choose to buy from Costco, the employee is reimbursed via a Miscellaneous Form -5, as described above in Issue #2.

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Office of the Controller