GPO acting deputy director retiring after several critical IG probes

Herb Jackson Jr. was accused of co-orchestrating a scheme to bypass the competitive hiring process and of engaging in cronyism in a betray of public trust.

The Government Publishing Office’s acting deputy director told members of a House Appropriations subcommittee he will retire from government service at the end of March, following several critical probes from the agency’s former inspectors general.

Herb Jackson Jr., a career employee with nearly 40 years of experience, said his last day at the agency will be March 31. Since July, he’s held the role of acting deputy director.

Herb Jackson Jr.’s last day at the Government Publishing Office will be March 31, 2019. He has held the role of acting deputy director since July.

Last summer, former acting IG Stephen Roy claimed Jackson and former acting Deputy Director Andrew Sherman had “orchestrated a scheme to bypass the competitive hiring process and engaged in cronyism, thereby betraying the public trust.”

That report followed claims from another former IG, Michael Raponi, that GPO lacked “due diligence” when it awarded one of its biggest contracts — selecting a vendor to print and mail forms for the upcoming decennial census — to a company that declared bankruptcy four months after winning the contract.

In October 2017, GPO awarded Cenveo with a $61 million contract to print questionnaires for the upcoming 2020 population count.

In a ruling last July, a bankruptcy court judge awarded Cenveo $5.5 million “for all properly invoiced work completed under an existing print order under the census contract,” and the Justice Department successfully terminated the contract.

Members of the subcommittee questioned Jackson about lessons learned from the census contract, but didn’t mention the former IG’s allegations of cronyism.

“There were a number of things that should have happened that possibly didn’t happen,” Jackson told lawmakers, adding that the agency could’ve done a better job with reviewing Cenveo’s financials before awarding the contract. “The company was doing business for GPO and was successful in all of its dealings with us. However, when it came time for this particular award, some of those things were not back-checked.”

Jackson said he has asked the agency’s current acting IG, James Ives, to continue auditing the procurement steps that went into awarding the contract to Cenveo. 

“So they’re still looking at what went wrong there, and ways in which it can be improved,” Jackson said. “I expect to get that report, hopefully, before I leave.” 

In addition, Jackson told lawmakers his agency and Census Bureau officials have met with the new census vendor, RR Donnelly, to ensure that everyone is on the same page going forward. Since the contract award last month, Jackson said RR Donnelly has completed at least one contract deliverable.

GPO has also revised its Contract Review Board policies to require major awards get reviewed by a senior procurement official, as well as the agency’s legal team. 

“We’re doing this to ensure that we don’t have a glitch like that,” Jackson said. “This one happened, but it has not affected the way in which we continue to do business, and we continue to make certain that our contracts are awarded properly, timely and efficiently.” 

GPO has earned clean audit opinions on its finances from outside auditors for the past 22 years. Jackson assured lawmakers that the Cenveo bankruptcy wouldn’t jeopardize this year’s audit.

In an interim IG report, dated June 21, former IG Roy claimed Jackson violated the agency’s competitive hiring process when his son, Herbert Jackson III, accepted an internship at GPO in 2014, and later accepted a job at an agency division his father indirectly supervised.

According to the IG report, former GPO deputy director Sherman didn’t take action because “he did not believe he had the authority to do so.”

“When asked why his son didn’t apply for a position with GPO through the competitive hiring process, Jackson, Jr., stated that he did not believe his son would qualify for the position due to his son’s lack of veterans’ preference for hiring,” the interim report states.

NPR first reported about the interim report in December after obtaining a copy. Former GPO IG Melinda Miguel confirmed to Federal News Network on Jan. 2 that Roy had issued the report to authorized parties last June, but couldn’t comment further, because the report was part of an “ongoing investigation and not releasable at this point.”

On. Jan. 8, Jackson appointed Ives as the agency’s new acting IG after Miguel stepped down less than five months into her tenure.

A GPO spokesman on Thursday referred questions to Ives, the agency’s new acting IG.

Ives told Federal News Network in an email that: “Consistent with longstanding practices, the Office of Inspector General does not confirm the existence of or otherwise comment about ongoing investigations.”

At Wednesday’s committee hearing, GPO’s acting chief technology officer Richard Davis responded to claims in a recent IG report that the agency doesn’t have a current plan in place to bring its IT systems back online in the event of a disaster.

“While I believe that report was very factually accurate, to a degree, I think it left out some details about procedural controls that are in place,” Davis said, adding that the agency’s chief information officer will complete a contingency plan by March 15.

Prior to that contingency plan, Davis said GPO has done monthly “failover” and “failback” tests, in which officials have checked whether backup systems can handle network traffic if something happens to the main system, and then testing whether the main system can resume normal operations once brought back online,

“We can definitely do things better in this regard, but I think we’re doing some things very well,” Davis said.

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