Electronic Scale Procurement Needs Revision

GGD-81-53: Published: Mar 23, 1981. Publicly Released: Mar 23, 1981.

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A review was undertaken on the restrictive conditions and specifications in Postal Service solicitations and their impact on Postal Service relationships with private industry, competition, and cost. Specifically, GAO reviewed the Postal Service's current procurement of electronic scales and its procurement strategy of competition by specification.

In its review, GAO found that the Postal Service has contracted for electronic scales, which will serve as the standard electronic scale for the future. The first article delivery of the scales was delayed 3 months and did not pass the required quality control tests. A second scale, which has also been received, experienced problems but received conditional approval on the basis of independent environmental and National Bureau of Standards tests. To date, the Bureau's report on these tests has not been received. However, further testing at the Postal Service's research and development facilities showed that the scale still does not meet the Postal Service's specifications. With regard to the possibility of shifting the Postal Service's current procurement strategy, GAO found that the procurement strategy for the electronic scale has been to standardize program needs using the Postal Service's specification which requires a unique item. This single snapshot of program needs can have negative results in the case of a technologically advanced item in a rapidly evolving field where both the Postal Service's needs and commercial product cost and capability can be expected to change with user experience and further advancements in the field. In such circumstances, the preferred procurement strategy would be to select from existing commercial products those which most nearly meet the Postal Service's needs.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Postal Service should assemble a top level team to assess at the earliest possible date whether the current contract should be continued or terminiated.

    Agency Affected: United States Postal Service

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Postal Service should limit scales acquired under the current contract, should it be continued, to the number needed for further user experience and comparisons with commercially available scales. In no event should the Service acquire a unit inferior to what is commercially available.

    Agency Affected: United States Postal Service

  3. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Postal Service should allow its regions to gain more experience with commercially available electronic scales to further define user needs.

    Agency Affected: United States Postal Service

 

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