Monday, January 24, 2011

Sparkling gifts from far away lands - can't be worn for personal use and simply can't be returned or exchanged ...

Remember that scene in the 1987 movie, No Way Out  between Sam Hesselman and Lt. Cmdr. Tom Farrell

Don't gifts from governments have to be registered
with the office of protocol?
                   
- So they tell us.
- Are their files computerised?
                   
Yes. They would be in the department of state's
computer.

That's not just fiction, that's real life, too.

US regulations require that the Secretary of State publish in the Federal Register a comprehensive listing of gifts received by Federal employees of more than minimal during the preceding year.


Early this January, the State Department's Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy signed the report, and the Federal Register released the list on January 18. The list includes the reports Federal employees filed with their employing agencies during calendar year 2009 on gifts received from foreign government sources.

3 FAM 4122.1: An employee abroad who has been offered a gift (other than meals, refreshments or entertainment) by a private individual or organization that cannot be personally accepted under 5 CFR 2635, Subpart B or under other authority may accept it on behalf of the Department of State, or if employed by another agency which has gift acceptance authority, on behalf of that agency, if refusal, reimbursement at the fair market value, or return would cause offense or embarrassment or otherwise adversely affect the foreign relations of the United States.



Gifts accepted pursuant to section 3 FAM 4122.1a are deemed to have been accepted on behalf of the U.S. Government and may not be retained by the employee. Employees shall, within sixty days of acceptance, deposit the gift for official use with their agency or, if the agency does not have gift acceptance authority, with the Department of State. Gifts shall be used and disposed of in accordance with State or agency regulations governing property management and disposal.


The CFR defines "minimal value" as retail value in the United States at the time of acceptance of $100 or less, except that on January 1, 1981, and at 3-year intervals thereafter, minimal value is to be redefined in regulations prescribed by the Administrator of General Services, in consultation with the Secretary of State, to reflect changes in the consumer price index for the immediately preceding 3-year period.


F. Scott Fitzgerald in "The Rich Boy" (1926) writes: "Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me." Obviously, that is true (they have more money). But the really rich, countries, that is, are even more different. They don't have an Oversight Commission asking where that gift money is going (except perhaps Botswana, I mean Ghana, separate post later). 

The more than minimal value gifts listed in the Federal Register range in value from 3-6 figures. They are all accepted because "non-acceptance would cause embarrassment to donor and U.S.Government." Some of the gifts below:





For President Obama:


From the King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.
  • Large desert scene on a green veined marble base featuring miniature figurines of gold palm trees and camels; large gold medallion with the Royal seal in a green leather display box; large brass and glass clock by Jaeger-LeCoultre in a greenleather display case. Rec’d—6/03/2009. Est. Value—$34,500.00. Disposition—Archives Foreign.


From President of the People’s Republic of China, Hu Jintao
  • 39 x 49 wooden framed and matted fine silk embroidery depicting a portrait study of the First Family. Rec’d—11/01/2009. Est. Value—$20,000.00.


From UK Prime Minister, James Gordon Brown
  • Black and gold pen with a wooden pen holder, made from the wood of the HMS Gannet in Chatham; book entitled ‘‘Churchill and America’’ by Martin Gilbert; book entitled ‘‘Churchill: A Life’’ by Martin Gilbert; book set entitled ‘‘Biography of Winston S. Churchill,’’ by Martin Gilbert. Rec’d—3/3/2009. Est. Value—$16,510.00.


From President of the Council of Ministers of the Italian Republic, Silvio Berlusconi.
  • Book entitled ‘‘I Vetri di Archimede Seguso dal 1950 al 1959’’; pair of blown glass candleholders and a glass fruit bowl. Rec’d—9/24/2009. Est. Value—$14,445.00. Disposition—Archives Foreign.


For First Lady Michelle Obama


From King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
  • Ruby and diamond jewelry set consisting of a pair of earrings, a ring, a bracelet, and a necklace. Rec’d—6/03/2009. Est.Value—$132,000.00. Disposition—Archives Foreign.


From Mrs. Ernestina Naadu Mills, First Lady of the Republic of Ghana
  • Backes and Strauss ‘‘Black Star of Ghana’’ watch, crafted in 18 karat gold with diamonds and leather. Rec’d—8/25/2009. Est.Value—$48,000.00. Disposition—Archives Foreign.


From Dierk Wettengel, Senator, Federal Republic of Germany.
  • Franck Muller Color Dreams watch; accompanying book.Rec’d—4/4/2009. Est. Value—$12,895.00. Disposition—Archives


Even White House staff members get gifts:


For Marvin Nicholson


From King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
  • One pair of silver cufflinks, one male watch, one female watch, one silver pen, and one diamond jewelry set including earrings, a ring, and a bracelet, presented in a green leather case. Rec’d—6/3/2009. Est. Value—$18,580.00. Location—Pending Transfer to the General Services Administration.


For Peter Rundlet


From King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
  • One pair of silver cufflinks, one male watch, one female watch, one silver pen, and one diamond jewelry set including earrings, a ring, and a bracelet, presented in a green leather case. Rec’d—6/3/2009. Est.Value—$12,560.00. Location—Pending Transfer to the General Services Administration.


Diplomatic interpreters get gifts.


Gamal Helal
From King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
  • Green leather briefcase with set of jewelry including ruby and diamond bracelet, earrings and ring, men’s and women’s watches with diamond face, Tiffany & Co. sterling silver cufflinks and sterling silver pen. Rec’d—June 3, 2009. Est. Value—$23,400.00. Location—Pending Transfer to General Services Administration.


The Blair House staff get gifts. His Majesty King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein, King of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan gave multiple gifts to the Blair House staff presumably during a visit in 2009.

And, of course, US Embassy folks get gifts:


For Joseph LeBaron, U.S. Ambassador to Qatar.

From Shaykh Thani bin Abdullah Al Thani, Member of the Royal Family, State of Qatar.
  • Men’s Rolex watch; Women’s Chopard watch with diamond face. Rec’d—June 10, 2009. Est. Value—$15,500.00. Location—Pending Transfer to General Services Administration.



For Richard W. Erdman, Charge d’Affaires, U.S. Embassy Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
From King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
  • Green leather briefcase with set of jewelry including topaz and diamond bracelet, earrings and ring, Men’s and Women’s Eloga Tzar ‘‘1928’’ watch with diamond face and, Tiffany and Co. sterling silver cufflinks and sterling silver pen. Rec’d—June 3, 2009. Est. Value—$12,000.00. Location—Pending Transfer to General Services Administration.

See full list after the jump


For David H. Rundell, Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
From King of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Abdullah bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques
  • 18K white gold bracelet and matching earring set with citrine and diamond stones. Rec’d—June 4, 2009. Est. Value—$1,200.00. Location—Recipient Wishes to Purchase.


For Joan Polaschik, Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S. Embassy Tripoli, Libya.
From Colonel Muammar Abu Minyar al-Qadhafi, Leader of the Revolution of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.
  • 21K gold ring with a green stone. Rec’d—December 11, 2009. Est. Value—$980.00. Location—Recipient Wishes to Purchase.

It is not unheard of for recipients to purchase the gift received. Per CFR: (b) No gift or decoration deposited with the General Services Administration for disposal may be sold without the approval of the Secretary of State, upon a determination that the sale will not adversely affect the foreign relations of the United States. When depositing gifts or decorations with the designated depository office of their employing agency, employees may indicate their interest in participating in any subsequent sale of the items by the Government.



The Honorable Ben S. Bernanke, Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.
From Giulio Tremonti, Minister of Economy and Finance of the Italian Republic.
  • Leather travel bag. Rec’d—2/14/2009. Est. Value—$750.00. Disposition—Office of the Chairman for Official Use.
From Slawomir Stanislaw Skrzypek, President of the National Bank of the Republic of Poland.
  • Commemorative coin set (4 coins)—Poland’s Road to Freedom (2009). Rec’d—9/1/2009. Est. Value—$425.00. Disposition—Chairman’s office for Official Use.


Here are the CFR sections that governs the official use of gifts:
(a) At the request of an overseas post or an office within the employing agency, a gift or decoration deemed to have been accepted on behalf of the United States may be retained for official use.

However, to qualify for such approval, the gift or decoration should be an item which can be used in the normal conduct of agency business, such as a rug or a tea service, or an art object meriting display, such as a painting or sculpture. Personal gift items, such as wristwatches, jewelry, or wearing apparel, should not be regarded as suitable for official use. Only under unusual circumstances will retention of a decoration for official use be authorized. Every effort should be made to place each official use item in a location that will afford the largest number of employees, and, if feasible, members of the public, the maximum opportunity to receive the benefit of its display, provided the security of the location is adequate.


CFR also provides a guide on determining the value of gifts: (2) The donee is responsible for determining that a gift is of minimal value in the United States at the time of acceptance. However, should any dispute result from a difference of opinion concerning the value of a gift, the employing agency will secure the services of an outside appraiser to establish whether the gift is one of minimal value. If, after an appraisal has been made, it is established that the value of the gift in question is $200 or more at retail in the United States, the donee will bear the costs of the appraisal. If, however, the appraised value is established to be less than $200, the employing agency will bear the costs.


You can read CFR Section 1 Part 3: Gifts and decorations from foreign governments here.


You might like to know that the regulations cover just about everyone in the Federal Government. Even the Central Intelligence Agency files a report on tangible gifts. Except that all recipients are listed as "An Agency Employee" and identity of foreign donor and government are simply listed as "5 U.S.C. 7342(f)(4)." For the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the name and title of person accepting the gift on behalf of the U.S. Government as well as identity of foreign donor and government are listed as "5 U.S.C. 7342(f)(4), as amended." But the gifts are still listed.



Gifts to Federal Employees from Foreign Government Sources | 2009




1 comment:

The Hippo said...

Wow, thanks for sharing that. I wish I had something more to say than... dang, that sucks.