Subscriptions and News Clippings

Expenditures and Related Information Reported by Federal Organizations Gao ID: GGD-97-99 June 27, 1997

Federal agencies subscribe to newspapers, magazines, and automated news services to help their employees keep abreast of current events affecting their organizations. Another way to keep employees informed is to compile clippings of news stories. This report provides information on executive branch expenditures for both subscriptions and news clippings in fiscal year 1996. GAO discusses (1) the number of subscription copies of major newspapers that are normally used to prepare news clippings, (2) the employee benefits reported from subscriptions and news clippings, (3) whether guidance is provided to employees about procuring subscriptions and producing and distributing news clippings, and (4) whether agencies have made changes to improve their subscriptions procurement processes and news clippings operations.

GAO noted that: (1) for FY 1996, 42 federal organizations reported estimated expenditures of about $73 million for subscriptions to newspapers, magazines, periodicals, and automated news services and about $8 million for news clippings operations; (2) although federal organizations provided GAO with these expenditure data, it should be emphasized that some of these data are estimates only; (3) federal organizations do not typically account for these expenditures separately from other types of expenditures, and some reporting officials told GAO they had difficulty making accurate estimates; (4) federal organizations reported procuring multiple copies of major newspapers, such as The Washington Post, that are normally used to prepare news clippings products; (5) while a few federal organizations reported procuring 1 or 2 copies of these major newspapers, other organizations reported procuring over 200 copies of 1 of more of the newspapers; (6) federal organizations generally reported that subscriptions and news clippings products benefit their employees and increase productivity; (7) the procurement of subscriptions by executive agencies, like the acquisition of other services, is covered under the Federal Acquisition Regulation; (8) twenty-eight organizations responding to GAO's survey, or at least 1 of their components, reported having guidance for procuring subscriptions; (9) twenty-two of the 28 federal organizations reported providing organization-specific guidance, such as requiring management approval to ensure that the subscriptions are mission-related; (10) furthermore, 24 federal organizations, or at least 1 of their components, reported having guidance on how news clippings products should be produced and distributed in the organization, such as sending the news clippings products only to high-level officials; (11) several federal organizations noted recent or planned actions to improve their subscriptions procurement processes or preparation of their news clippings products; and (12) these actions included reducing overall spending on subscriptions, centralizing the subscription process, eliminating subscriptions to electronic wire services in favor of available Internet services, and changing news clippings products from paper copies to the electronic media.

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