Confirms Enforceability of 44 U.S.C. 501
Requiring Agency Print Purchases to go Through GPO
by Frederic G. Antoun, Jr.
On December 16, 2002, the U. S. General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a decision in Bureau of Land Management: Payment of Pocatello Field Office Photocopying Cost (B-290901).
The decision was a result of a request by a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) certifying officer for a decision as to whether or not BLM appropriated funds could be used to pay for photocopying services bought directly from a commercial vendor, without going through the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO).
GAO found that since the BLM employees purchased the printing directly, in violation of the requirement of 44 U.S.C. 501 that agencies to go through the GPO for print purchases, without a prior waiver from the Public Printer, BLM was not authorized to spend appropriated funds to pay the printing contractor. The determination was based on the conclusion that since there was no authority to contract with the private sector printing provider, and since there was a contradictory statute (44 U.S.C. 501), any contract with a private sector printing contact imposed no legal obligation on the government to pay.
The bottom line is that GAO confirmed its prior decisions that agencies are still required to go through the GPO for print purchases pursuant to 44 U.S.C. 501, and that failing to do so can have some serious consequences:
1) The printer may not be paid;
2) The agency may seek recovery of amounts inappropriately charged on a credit card from the employee who made the purchase. (See footnote 1 to the attached GAO Decision).
This GAO opinion continues the GAO’s strong stance in support of enforcement of existing laws, including 44 U.S.C. 501, unless such laws have been declared unconstitutional by the appropriate federal court.
There are two other interesting sidelights in this decision.
Perhaps agencies that want to go directly to the contractor should take advantage of GPO's Simplified Purchase Agreements (SPA), which allow the agency buyer to place orders under $2,500 on the SPA directly with one of the printers on the SPA, on a "best value" basis. Since SPAs are issued by GPO, there are no legal issues or potential violations to worry about.
Click here to read the GAO decision.
© Copyright 2002 Frederic G. Antoun Jr.