Ten Things You Can Do Now That You Couldn't Do--or Didn't Do--Before Reinvention*
*That is, if your agency is committed to Reinvention
Reinventing government means cutting red tape and ending bureaucratic hassles for federal employees as well as our customers. We've had several reforms that not only reduce administrative headaches, they save millions of dollars. These reforms resulted from legislation, executive orders, applying new technologies, getting rid of or relaxing government-wide rules, or dusting off old rules and voilà finding that we could do some things all along.
- Your agency can get rid of sign-in sheets and other time and attendance busywork. The General Accounting Office released a revised Title 6 of its Policy and Procedures Manual for Guidance of Federal Agencies on March 22, 1996. Call Barry Grinnell, GAO, at (202) 512-9530.
- You can survey your customers without getting advance clearance from the Office of Management and Budget as long as your agency has worked out a generic umbrella agreement with OMB. You must send copies to OMB a week or so before you to to the public. Call your agency's Paperwork Reduction Act focal point. For more information, call Jeff Hill, OMB, at (202) 395-7340.
- You can buy many supplies commercially (up to $5,000 per item) instead of buying from the General Services Administration (41 CFR 101-26.301.b). For the few exceptions, call Henry Maury, GSA, (202) 208-7928, or e-mail: email@example.com. Lots of information and online ordering are available from GSA Advantage! on the Web at http://www.gsa.gov.
- You can buy what you need with a government-issued credit card, up to the limits set by your agency, and anyone permitted by your agency can have a card. If it costs no more than $2,500, you can use the micro-purchase procedures in the Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act (FASA) of 1994. These procedures, which do not require procurement expertise, will be sent to you with your credit card. Call Doris Marsh, GSA, (703) 305-7564.
- As soon as GSA completes the regulations, your procurement office can simplify its procedures for buying commercial items that cost over $100,000 but not more than $5 million. It can also reduce the number of suppliers it has to negotiate with after getting initial proposals. The Federal Acquisition Reform Act (FARA) was signed into law on Feb. 10, 1996.
- Your agency will soon be able to buy computer systems, regardless of value, without getting approval from the General Services Administration. The Information Technology Management Reform Act, signed into law on February 10, 1996, repealed the 1965 Brooks Act and made buying computers easier. It's effective on August 8. Call Kenneth Touloumes, GSA, at (202) 501-1126.
- You don't have to submit receipts for most travel expenses under $75 (41 CFR chapters 301-304). Exceptions are the cost of lodging under the lodgings-plus-per-diem system and a list of 18 specific items that require a receipt regardless of amount. (The receipt threshold for the 18 items is being raised to the standard $75 in a forthcoming FTR amendment.) Call Jane Groat or Joddy Garner at GSA, (202) 501-1538.
Lots of reforms are coming down the pike to reduce red tape for the traveler. Call (202) 512-9201 to talk with staff of the Joint Financial Management Improvement Program. Call (202) 512-6000 to get a copy of their report, Improving Travel Management Governmentwide.
The report is also on the World Wide Web. See FinanceNet (http//www.financenet.gov). You may also use Gopher. To get a menu, use this address: gopher://gopher.financenet.gov. The actual address is gopher://pula.financenet.gov:70/00/docs/central/jfmip/travel.rpt.
- You can stop writing a lot of reports that almost nobody reads. The Federal Reports Elimination and Sunset Act of 1995 (P.L. 104-66), signed by the President on December 21, 1995, repealed scores of Congressionally-mandated reporting by federal agencies and requires the rest to be sunset in 5 years unless specifically extended.
- You have a choice in what you use to apply for a federal job-- a resume like the rest of the world, a new abbreviated Optional Form 612, or even the old Standard Form 171. You also don't have to bother with the 10,000-page Federal Personnel Manual because the Office of Personnel Management got rid of all of it in 1994. Contact: Richard Whitford, OPM, at (202) 606-1031.
- You can use outside commercial recruiters and you may contract for outside temporary help. With recent changes in law, you can directly recruit, examine, and hire staff. Call Allan Heuerman at (202) 606-2800 to get a copy of the Template of Personnel Flexibilities released by the Office of Personnel Management on March 27, 1996.
Is There a Catch?
Yes, there s a catch. Even though many legislative and central control barriers are falling, it takes agency leadership committed to reinvention to use the new flexibilities to create a more trusting, less restrictive environment for federal workers. Not every federal office is a model of reinvention.
The new time and attendance procedures from GAO are guidelines, not mandates. The latest procurement law encourages use of the credit card for purchases under $2,500, but does not require it. One disgusted program official said using the card was so rule-bound in her agency that many managers refused to have anything to do with it. These constraints were imposed by her own agency. It's short-sighted for federal agencies not to cut their internal red tape, considering the potential big dollar savings, said NPR Deputy John Kamensky. Travel reforms, for example, can save possibly $800 million governmentwide every year. We can't afford old ways of doing things in a balanced budget world.
From the Field: There s No Support Yet for the Multitude of Small Reforms
The Reinvention Coordinator in one agency, chafing over a mandatory publications review process and a burdensome requirement to provide receipts for small-ticket airport parking, provided feedback by way of the National Performance Review's home page (http://www.npr.gov):
"....Nearly every week we run into problems with offices who make or enforce requirements that need to be reformed, but aren t going to be because those in charge are either protecting their authorities or have simply not understood and/or accepted the message of Vice President Gore and the NPR to reduce red tape and eliminate existing roadblocks to progress and change.
....The large reforms have had good NPR support, but there's no support yet for the multitude of small reforms that collectively could revitalize the government quickly and create sweeping government improvements."
This article appeared in the Spring 1996 issue of Reinvention Roundtable. For more information, call Pat Wood at the National Performance Review, (202) 632-0223.