April 23, 2003 -- (Used with permission from Government Executive Magazine) -- New rules allowing federal agencies to purchase printing services directly from private firms will be issued “in the near future,” an Office of Management and Budget spokesman said Friday. In the meantime, agencies still must go through the Government Printing Office GPO for most jobs.
Nearly a year ago, OMB Director Mitch Daniels announced that agencies would soon be freed from the printing office’s “monopoly,” which it has enjoyed for a century under federal law. Daniels said in a May 3, 2002 memorandum that Congress cannot force executive branch agencies to use the printing office, citing a 1996 Justice Department opinion. He instructed the Federal Acquisition Regulation Council to rewrite procurement rules governing the purchase of printing.
The council, which oversees procurement rules, issued proposed rules in November. Government Printing Office officials and some lawmakers spent the summer before launching a counteroffensive to Daniels’ plan, arguing that the executive branch cannot simply ignore a federal law. Printing office proponents also said that letting agencies go their own way on printing would be expensive because they would no longer reap the savings of centralized purchasing.
But Daniels argued that competition would promote savings and better service from the printing office, which could still compete for agencies’ work under the plan.
Since the council issued its proposed rules in November, about 1,500 people and groups commented. Most said they were opposed to the changes. Hundreds submitted a form letter that said the changes would make it harder for libraries across the country to get copies of government documents. The Government Printing Office collects documents and forwards them to hundreds of libraries through the Federal Depository Library Program. Agencies would be less likely to provide documents to the printing office if they contracted directly for printing services, the form letter said.
Federal agency representatives submitted mixed views on the rules. While some agencies supported the change, the Interagency Council on Printing and Publication Services, which represents printing specialists across the executive branch, announced its opposition to OMB’s plan. “By enacting OMB’s proposal, the government will end up spending more on printing than it currently does,” the council said. “The public will have far less access to documents they are entitled to, competition will actually be restricted and any semblance of consistency in presentation of information, formats, styles, cost efficiencies, will be lost.”
The Government Printing Office got a new leader at the beginning of the year. New Public Printer Bruce James said in a recent interview that Daniels’ plan has kick-started a push for more efficiency at the printing office. James also echoed the concerns of the interagency council, however.
OMB’s plan has also run into trouble at the General Accounting Office. The office issued an opinion in December ruling that the Bureau of Land Management could not pay a bill to Kinko’s because the bureau should have gone through the printing office for a copying job. The bureau would have saved nearly $14,000 by going through the printing office, a later bureau review of the copying job found.
OMB spokesman Trent Duffy said Friday that officials are considering the comments submitted on the proposed rule. “There hasn’t been any delay,” he said.
(Used with permission from Government Executive Magazine - All rights reserved - www.govexec.com, written by Brian Friel, [email protected]