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Paper jams at Bureau of Engraving and Printing

By Ed O'Keefe

Angry employees at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing say the cash-strapped agency is giving taxpayer money to government employees to return government printers.

At least 534 mostly senior bureau employees have individual printers to ensure that sensitive documents -- related mostly to personnel issues -- don't end up in the wrong hands. But now the agency wants them back and plans to give employees a $75 gift card to turn them over. Employees that surrender their printers will instead use network printers -- all in an effort to cut paper, ink and electricity costs.

"Personal printers in BEP cost significantly more to use, operate and maintain than network printers," said to a flyer distributed at the bureau's offices in Washington and Fort Worth, Texas. The flyer, designed like an old-school Western "Wanted" poster, includes the image of a cowboy with a lasso riding a horse chasing after a printer (see the flyer after the jump).

"For a limited time, to incentivize you to voluntarily give up your active personal printer, BEP will share the savings with you," the flyer said. "You will receive a gift card in the amount of $75 if you turn in an active personal printer."

The gift cards will "reward employees who voluntarily agree to use a network printer that would admittedly take additional personal effort, as it would be less convenient and more time consuming to print a document at a network printer than using a printer at their desk," bureau spokeswoman Claudia Dickens said in an e-mail. (What?! They can't just walk down the hall to retrieve their documents? Hmm...)

"Rather than take printers from employees, or questioning each employee on whether they could justify keeping their printer, an employee suggested that we provide an incentive," Dickens said. The bureau cannot just seize all of the personal printers because it does not have network printers that are convenient to all employees. Gift cards will be distributed after the program ends on Dec. 31.

"If you want to save the money, you don't give someone the money to get something back that belongs to the government anyway," said one employee who contacted The Eye about the incentive program. The gift cards unfairly benefit senior officials, the employee said, since most rank-and-file workers don't have the luxury of a personal desktop printer.

Several career employees are also concerned about the bureau's new multi-million dollar computer inventory system and about plans to offer buyouts to 227 workers.

The staff cuts are necessary as yearly orders for printed money have dropped by 2 billion notes in recent years, Dickens said. Demand will continue to slide as Americans opt for credit cards and online bill payment over cold hard cash.

Employees that contacted The Eye suggested there's much more at stake and promise to share more details in the future. Stay tuned.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


The flyer distributed to Bureau of Engraving and Printing employees in Washington and Forth Worth:

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By Ed O'Keefe  | November 30, 2009; 11:43 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Workplace Issues  
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A GS 14 step 1 makes almost $50 per hour in DC. Add in benefits, etc and it probably costs the government closer to $70 per hour. Figure an additional 3 min. a day for 220 days days a year (includes time off for AL, holidays, SL) equals 660 minutes or 11 hours a year. 11 hours times 70 dollars equals $770 in labor cost per year to get rid of a printer. A FAST personal color inkjet printer cost the government about $300. Procurement and maintenance cost might double the figure the first year, but after that savings should be significant. BEP is just shifting an increase in costs to salary and wages.

Posted by: JoeStewart | November 30, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

This is an outrage. How can this agency pay employees (senior staffers) for government owned equipment? Also, how can they justify spending millions on a new system to support a dying product while also trying to reduce staff by 227? From my own experience I know replacing a manufacturing/financial system can cost more than $300 million.

Since the Bureau is a revenue based agency and only receives income from the Federal Reserve why do they have so much money to throw away? Where did they get all this extra money? I have my idea what do you think.

Posted by: colts121968 | November 30, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

To make this an even worse PR nightmare, I suspect the employees who receive the incentive card payment will not be taxed on the $75, while we poor schlubs out of government have to pay $100 a year for the privilege of using private employer-supplied laptops because the IRS is afraid we receive an untoward economic benefit from the potential personal use of the laptop.

And government employees wonder why real world people think they are idiots. And Obama wonders why we the majority of Americans don't want the federal government any where near health care.

Posted by: stvcar | November 30, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

I've been told by someone that works for this agency that there is much more going on related to fraud and waste. I was told they have a very large credit card bill each month, they are spending millions on a computer system, and millions on new equipment.
I think someone needs find out why this agency has so much extra money especially when we have a trillion dollar debit. If BEP has so much extra money I think they should have to put some towards our debit.

Posted by: rs1970 | November 30, 2009 1:35 PM | Report abuse

This is what happens when journalists report on a story without understanding the full story. Changing printer usage habits in order to save money in organizations is a complex thing. It requires a variety of creative steps in order to pull off within project deadlines. If the Bureau can accelerate project completion by a few months, support and servicing costs can fall by way more than 575 *75. It's a worthwhile bargain if you're supporting 100 different printer models, keeping supplies for them and so on.

People should stop being so ignorant and confused. why cry foul when the government tries proven private-sector methods to accelerate transformation and efficiency? They are not being paid for the printer, they are being incentivized to stop relying on a personal desk bound printer and move to a networked one.

Posted by: asja | November 30, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like asja is a company man. I've never heard of private-sector paying employees to turn in prints. I have seen printers removed by manage, no questions asked or should I say no money asked.
I've checked this with employees from other agencies, they all believe this is waste and should be reported.

Posted by: colts121968 | November 30, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

I'm a sr. mgr. at a Federal agency that has also just gone through IT "consolidation" to meet OMB's cyber security/efficiency standards.

The project on the whole is a huge boondoggle and a waste in which fully functioning, up to date equipment was taken away from employees and replaced by leased, less robust equipment at a $ per seat per month cost. Also accompanied by incompetent implementation support by the contractor, CTS, as well as dismal repair & trouble support. All in all a huge waste of money.

The one part that was done right, in contrast to this fiasco at BEP, is that those with individual printers were encouraged to give them up, but if their office wants to let them keep those printers, then the office becomes responsible for all maint. & upkeep (in addition to the per seat cost per month for the contractor-provided leased equipment).

So when your existing private printer dies, you lose it (unless your office sneaks a new one in for you).

In any case, the idea of paying people to give up their private printers is absurd and IG fodder IMO but it pales in comparison to some of the outrageous waste being sanctioned as a part of this larger process.

Posted by: fendertweed | November 30, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Here's the way to handle this...have the IT guys/gals go in...take the printer(s). What's the problem? Since when do we have to bribe federal employees to do without something?

In almost 40 years of government work I've never had the luxury of a personal printer. If you have to print sensitive stuff, get up and walk to the printer as soon as you hit the "Print" button. It's not me. Been doing it for years.

Posted by: CLJ11 | November 30, 2009 2:54 PM | Report abuse

It's sad that this story would even make it in the Post. There are only 1900 (DC and Texas) employees in the agency and most are blue collar employees who don't have personal printers or computers. I would estimate that maybe 200 printers would be rounded-up costing $75 each. This does not sound like the usual 75 million dollar or 75 billion dollars in Govt waste to me. It's sounds more like a drop in the ocean. Shame on you and the people who gave you the story.

Posted by: cdsteward1 | November 30, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

If you had bothered to read the entire article you would have also noticed the paragraph about the mult-million dollar NEW system they are implementing. Since BEP does not receive any money from the government there is only one way they could have come up with so much money, maybe you are smart enough to figure this out or maybe not.
The millions they are spending is not a drop in the bucket and as far as I'm concerned,as a tax payer, any money being wasted is WRONG. We have to start somewhere so why not dig into what sounds like a mess at BEP.

Posted by: rs1970 | November 30, 2009 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Let's see I got a blackberry...therefore I don't need to use my government issued phone...can I get about $80. Uh-oh, I have not used my typewriter since the stone-ages let's see that should get me about a week's worth of free lunches. I can't tell you the last time I wrote a telephone message on a message pad...maybe I could get a gift-card for those...for that matter I can't tell you the last time I used an ink-pen... If I keep going you will be paying me to do absolutely nothing but telework from home... Ooops I forgot that the next best kept secret...HUSH!!!

Posted by: PowerandPride | December 1, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

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