GAO Recommends Changes In Government Printing Office

In a report, GAO issued a list of recommendations to help the printing office deal with the changes caused by citizens' increased use of the Web.
Citizens and other constituents more often than not turn to the Internet to retrieve government documents, eschewing paper versions, as federal agencies publish statutes, regulations, and other materials directly to the Web. As a result, the Government Printing Office has seen significant declines in its printing volume, revenue, and document sales. The public printer, who heads the printing office, and his team say they understand the consequences of this technological change and have begun an ambitious effort to transform the office and re-examine its mission.

To assist in the transformation process under way at GPO, the General Accounting Office--the investigative and auditing arm of Congress--recently convened a panel of printing and information-dissemination experts, who developed a series of options for GPO to consider in its strategic planning. In a report issued Thursday, GAO presented the panelists' recommendations. The panel suggested that GPO:

• Develop a business plan to focus its mission on information dissemination as its primary goal, rather than printing

• Demonstrate to its customers the value the printing office can provide

• Improve and extend partnerships with agencies to help establish itself as an information disseminator

• Ensure that its internal operations are adequate for efficient and effective management of core business functions and for service to its customers

GPO should use other key practices identified to help agencies successfully transform, such as involving employees to obtain their ideas and gain their ownership for the transformation, GAO said. The printing office already has taken initial steps to adopt the best practices of other public- and private-sector organizations, most notably with respect to employee management. For example, it reorganized the human-capital office into customer-focused teams devoted to meeting the personnel needs of the office's operating units.

GAO said continued leadership attention is needed to build on the initial progress made in IT and financial management. For instance, the printing office should implement an IT investment-management process to help management choose, monitor, and evaluate projects, and it should train its line managers to effectively use financial data.

The public printer said he agreed with GAO's findings and recommendations, noting that the report will be a major part of the printing office's transformation process.

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