Government Printing Office:

Monopoly-Like Status Contributes to Inefficiency and Ineffectiveness

GGD-90-107: Published: Sep 26, 1990. Publicly Released: Sep 26, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO assessed the effectiveness and efficiency of the management of Government Printing Office (GPO) production, procurement, customer service, accountability, and strategic planning activities.

GAO found that: (1) GPO insulation from competitive market forces created few real incentives to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its operations; (2) GPO passed its high labor and administrative costs on to customers; (3) GPO Central Office printing costs in fiscal year (FY) 1989 totalled about $150 million, as opposed to estimated commercial printer costs of $75 million; (4) GPO scheduled work during high-cost time on weekends, while idle time existed during the regular work week; (5) in FY 1989, GPO wasted 22 to 34 percent of the paper used, approximately 12 percent higher than private industry, at a cost of $7 million; (6) 6 out of 12 agency printers polled perceived GPO printing quality as lower than procured printing, and GPO sent an average of 26 jobs a month back to press, at a monthly cost of $45,000; (7) aging equipment, 84 percent of which was fully depreciated, adversely influenced production efficiency; (8) GPO production efficiency and quality management systems were weak, resulting in failure in meeting production efficiency goals; (9) GPO failed to validate contractor delivery performance; (10) quality-of-performance information necessary to operate a sound contracting system was not easily accessible; (11) GPO continued to award contracts to poor performers; (12) poor communication and a poor system for tracking and resolving complaints hampered customer service; and (13) the GPO Executive Information System (EIS) failed to provide useful information, easy access, and rapid response.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GPO has made progress in this area with the publication of "GPO-2001," a strategic vision, and in January 1993 "GPO: Moving Forward in the Electronic Age," tactical plans developed pursuant to "GPO-2001." Since July 1990, JCP has held 9 hearings on GPO's various efforts to improve its planning efforts. In 1993, the President signed legislation to establish electronic information access systems at GPO. GPA has shown a consistent effort to define its future role.

    Matter: Within the framework of the strategic planning process, there needs to be a collaborative effort to define the GPO future role. The Joint Committee on Printing should take the lead in bringing together a collection of GPO leaders, customers, unions, and others to identify the GPO future role. This collaborative effort should answer the critical questions that will influence and define the GPO future role in government printing.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GPO has made progress in this area with the publication of "GPO-2001," a strategic vision and, in January 1993, "GPO: Moving Forward in the Electronic Age," tactical plans developed pursuant to "GPO-2001." Since July 1990, JCP has held 9 hearings on GPO's various efforts to improve its planning efforts. In 1993, the President signed legislation to establish an electronic information access system at GPO. GPO has shown a consistent effort to define its future role.

    Matter: Within the framework of the strategic planning process, there needs to be a collaborative effort to define the GPO future role. The Joint Committee on Printing should take the lead in bringing together a collection of GPO leaders, customers, unions, and others to identify the GPO future role. This collaborative effort should design and implement a strategy to provide the people, plant, and equipment needed to carry out the newly defined role.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GPO has taken some steps to reduce the use of weekend and other overtime--for the period ending August 1991, GPO reduced these expenses by $1.7 million compared to the same time period last year. GPO is reviewing current work loads in an effort to adjust future scheduling activities and evaluating potential reductions in idle machine time.

    Recommendation: To improve efficiency and production quality, the Public Printer should revise current central plant production scheduling practices to reduce weekend overtime, realigning the existing work flow to better utilize the Monday through Friday work week and reduce idle machine and labor time, and contracting out additional congressional or agency work to the extent necessary.

    Agency Affected: Government Publishing Office

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GPO waste and spoilage did not increase from fiscal year (FY) 1990 to FY 1991. Efforts to standardize print formats will also reduce waste and spoilage; however, this is dependent on congressional approval for new machine purchases, which has been granted. Purchase order for presses was issued December 21, 1992.

    Recommendation: To improve efficiency and production quality, the Public Printer should establish a realistic agency goal and action to reduce waste and spoilage.

    Agency Affected: Government Publishing Office

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GPO, within its unique production environment, is constantly making efforts to maximize efficiency and achieve comparability with industry goals. For example, to further this effort GPO has secured approval for acqusition of modern heatset web offset presses and other modernization efforts. Also, in "GPO 2001", total quality improvement strategies such as determining core products and services and standardization of products and services to increase comparability to industry efficiency standards are identified. These quality strategies were converted into tactical plans in "GPO: Moving Forward in the Electronic Age."

    Recommendation: To improve efficiency and production quality, the Public Printer should adopt a comprehensive quality management strategy that includes production efficiency goals commensurate with industry goals to the extent possible.

    Agency Affected: Government Publishing Office

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GPO has planned a comprehensive quality management strategy in "GPO 2001" and developed a tactical plan for the strategy's implementation in "GPO: Moving Forward in the Electronic Age." GPO is maximizing the utilization of technology to reduce human error. GPO's prepress systems are heavily automated, with the vast majority of information for publication being submitted in electronic format to reduce errors due to keying. Also, GPO's press and bindery areas are being progressively upgraded with new technology to reduce human error. Finally, GPO utilizes a variety of production process quality controls, such as computerized spell check, press inspections, and other measures to reduce errors.

    Recommendation: To improve efficiency and production quality, the Public Printer should adopt a comprehensive quality management strategy that includes an approach that emphasizes the prevention of errors, rather than their detection after production.

    Agency Affected: Government Publishing Office

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GPO recently developed a customer service satisfaction survey aimed at its agency customers. It has also worked to maintain positive relationships with the Interagency Council on Printing and Publications Services and the Publisher's Committee. Customer satisfaction is a key element of the GPO quality initiative. This process is part of an ongoing effort to address customer satisfaction issues.

    Recommendation: To improve efficiency and production quality, the Public Printer should adopt a comprehensive quality management strategy that includes a customer satisfaction orientation.

    Agency Affected: Government Publishing Office

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GPO has taken three major steps in this area, though more work needs to be done. A compliance study has identified areas for improvement in assessing contractor performance, random exams are used to validate contractor delivery schedules, and an automated noncompliance form is being used to collect customer feedback.

    Recommendation: To improve the management of procurement and ensure that procurement personnel have access to comprehensive and reliable data on contractor performance prior to making award decisions, the Public Printer should establish internal control procedures to collect, validate, and maintain information on delivery performance. Such procedures should require periodic contact directly with customers to validate delivery information.

    Agency Affected: Government Publishing Office

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GPO has taken three major steps in this area, though more work needs to be done. A compliance study has identified areas for improvement in assessing contractor performance, random exams are used to validate contractor delivery schedules, and an automated noncompliance form is being used to collect customer feedback.

    Recommendation: To improve the management of procurement and ensure that procurement personnel have access to comprehensive and reliable data on contractor performance prior to making award decisions, the Public Printer should automate, to the extent possible, data on the quality and timeliness of products provided by contractors, or at least make the data more accessible.

    Agency Affected: Government Publishing Office

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GPO has taken three major steps in this area, though more work needs to be done. A compliance study has identified areas for improvement in assessing contractor performance, random exams are used to validate contractor delivery schedules, and an automated noncompliance form is being used to collect customer feedback.

    Recommendation: To improve the management of procurement and ensure that procurement personnel have access to comprehensive and reliable data on contractor performance prior to making award decisions, the Public Printer should issue guidance on the use of quality and timeliness data in awarding contracts.

    Agency Affected: Government Publishing Office

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GPO has surveyed its customers and continues to work in this area by frequent visits to customers. It has also begun a firm estimating program and when actual costs exceed estimates, an explanation is provided.

    Recommendation: The Public Printer should improve the GPO Customer Service Program by providing all customers with more detailed information on their bills, including a brief explanation when actual costs exceed estimates.

    Agency Affected: Government Publishing Office

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: If GPO decides to produce a job in-house, the customer is notified and given a firm cost prior to beginning production. The Account Representatives receive daily status reports on both jobs being produced in-house and procured. From these reports, the Account Representative can tell if a job is behind schedule. The representative then notifies the customer. The requirement to relay accurate schedule information to the customer is part of each Account Representative's performance plan. Also, software modifications to PICS enable customers to easily ascertain the status of both in-house and procured jobs.

    Recommendation: The Public Printer should improve the GPO Customer Service Program by providing agencies with advance notice when jobs will be produced in-house or when jobs will be delivered late.

    Agency Affected: Government Publishing Office

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GPO plans to develop a yearly survey to solicit input from agency and congressional customers. In addition, senior agency officials plan to make on-site visits to agency customers to demonstrate GPO commitment to customer service. A yearly survey has been developed, as well as a system for agency visits.

    Recommendation: The Public Printer should improve the GPO Customer Service Program by developing a system to regularly solicit and analyze customer feedback to identify trends warranting corrective action.

    Agency Affected: Government Publishing Office

  12. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Although GPO plans to look at automated systems for tracking and monitoring complaints, it believes that the number of customer complaints is minimal and would rather focus efforts on resolving, rather than tracking, complaints. GPO is trying to instill a more proactive focus in its customer service department. Efforts are focused on resolution of issues before they become significant problems.

    Recommendation: The Public Printer should improve the GPO Customer Service Programs by improving processes to resolve customer complaints, and using complaint information to be more proactive in meeting customers' needs.

    Agency Affected: Government Publishing Office

  13. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: New elements and standards for top managers' performance are currently in use and managers will be held accountable for standards as of September 1992. These standards were based on OPM guidelines and are a significant step forward from previous standards.

    Recommendation: The Public Printer should strengthen accountability by improving top managers' performance plans and using the plans to evaluate performance. Where appropriate, top managers' performance plans should include measurable objectives for improving production, procurement, and customer service operations.

    Agency Affected: Government Publishing Office

  14. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: New elements and standards for top managers' performance are currently in use and managers will be held accountable for standards as of September 1992. These standards were based on OPM guidelines and are a significant step forward from previous standards.

    Recommendation: The Public Printer should strengthen accountability by improving top managers' performance plans and using the plans to evaluate performance. Where appropriate, top managers' performance plans should include achievement of the Public Printer's specified goals and objectives pertaining to managers' functional areas.

    Agency Affected: Government Publishing Office

  15. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: New elements and standards for top managers' performance are currently in use and managers will be held accountable for standards as of September 1992. These standards were based on OPM guidelines and are a significant step forward from previous standards.

    Recommendation: The Public Printer should strengthen accountability by improving top managers' performance plans and using the plans to evaluate performance. Where appropriate, top managers' performance plans should include specific language that can be used to hold managers accountable for performance.

    Agency Affected: Government Publishing Office

  16. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GPO established a multidisciplinary team to assess the agency's information needs and determine future strategy for systems upgrades. Additionally, EIS response time has been increased by eliminating 68.7 percent of graphs rarely used.

    Recommendation: The Public Printer should improve EIS and encourage its use by identifying the information that is needed to better manage GPO.

    Agency Affected: Government Publishing Office

  17. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GPO established a multidisciplinary team to assess the agency's information needs and determine future strategy for systems upgrades. Additionally, EIS response time has been increased by eliminating 68.7 percent of graphs rarely used.

    Recommendation: The Public Printer should improve EIS and encourage its use by redesigning the system to meet the information needs of GPO top managers.

    Agency Affected: Government Publishing Office

  18. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GPO established a multidisciplinary team to assess the agency's information needs and determine future strategy for systems upgrades. Additionally, EIS response time has been increased by eliminating 68.7 percent of graphs rarely used.

    Recommendation: The Public Printer should improve EIS and encourage its use by improving the response time.

    Agency Affected: Government Publishing Office

  19. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Public Printer, using the strategic plan as a starting point, asked senior GPO management to develop tactical plans to further extend the planning process to operational concerns. In January 1993, GPO published its tactical plan, "GPO: Moving Forward in the Electronic Age." With these as guidance, the Acting Public Printer can continue to make the planning process an intrinsic and ongoing part of GPO's management practices.

    Recommendation: The Public Printer should strengthen the GPO planning process by providing more specific direction and ensuring that the current planning process becomes an intrinsic part of GPO management practices for establishing consensus on agency goals and objectives.

    Agency Affected: Government Publishing Office

  20. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Both GPO's strategic plan and tactical plan receive input from GPO employees, employee unions, the Joint Committee on Printing, the House Committee on House Administration, the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, the House and Senate Legislative Branch Appropriation Subcommittees, Congressional printing customers, agency printing customers, OMB, OTA, GAO, the depository library community, the information industry, the printing industy, federal agency publishers, and related interests. GPO will continue to keep external and internal players involved in the planning process.

    Recommendation: The Public Printer should strengthen the GPO planning process by involving key external and internal players in the process.

    Agency Affected: Government Publishing Office

  21. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Currently GPO ensures consistency in planning by issuing guidance based on the strategic plan at the outset of the budget process. Further, it ensured that the tactical plans flowed from the strategic plan. All future planning will flow from GPO's strategic plan.

    Recommendation: The Public Printer should strengthen the GPO planning process by ensuring that strategic planning drives budget development and that workforce and other subordinate plans flow from the strategic plan.

    Agency Affected: Government Publishing Office

  22. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: GPO has clearly taken a number of specific steps to correct operational problems. Given the progress made in customer service, overtime usage, planning and performance standards, and the fact that continuous improvement is a key concept in GPO quality management initiatives, it is suggested that this recommendation is no longer as valid as it was when the GMR was done.

    Recommendation: Regardless of the outcome of any future role discussions, GPO should correct its operational problems.

    Agency Affected: Government Publishing Office

 

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