U.S. Government Printing Office
Office of the General Counsel
Contract Appeals Board

Appeal of Sacramento Blue Print, Incorporated
March 28, 1977

Vincent T. McCarthy, Chairman
Drew Spalding, Member
Jay E. Eisen, Member

This is an appeal filed on May 12, 1976, by Sacramento Blue
Print, Incorporated, 1720-15th Street, Sacramento, California
95814 (herein referred to as the contractor), under the disputes
clause of the Contract, Article 29, U.S. Government Printing
Office, Contract Terms No. 1, as revised July 15, 1970.  The
Office of General Counsel is the Public Printer's representative
for the determination of appeals under the disputes clause.


This is an appeal to a decision by the contracting officer
denying payment of a portion of the invoice submitted by the
contractor.  The issue is whether the contract terms permit
payment to the contractor for three cover leaves per book
produced, rather than two leaves per book as allowed by the
Contracting Officer.

Findings of Fact

1. This dispute arises out of Term Contract, Program 1952-M, for
Federal Printing Region No. 9-11 (Northern California and
Northern Nevada) in effect during September 1, 1975 through
August 31, 1976, which required the printing and binding of books
and pamphlets in quantities to cover the needs of the Government.
By the terms of the Specifications, the provisions of U.S.
Government Printing Office, Contract Terms No. 1 (revised July
15, 1970) were incorporated as part of the agreement.  The
Purchase Order at issue is number P-0765 and the Print Orders are
numbers 217, 218, 219, 220 and 5613.

2. The contract's "Schedule of Prices" covering charges for
Printing and Binding reads in relevant part:

"I. PRINTING AND BINDING:  The prices quoted shall include the
cost of all materials and services (other than negatives and
paper) necessary for printing text and cover pages in black ink,
or a single color other than black, and with additional colors,
and printing fold-ins in black ink, and with additional colors,
and binding as indicated.

. . . .

"Penalty Pages:  All cover pages shall be computed as 2 pages.

. . . .

"Price per page - 2 pages equal 1 leaf

1. Text or cover - single page over 7 7/8 x 10 1/4  to 8 1/2 x
11"." (p. 23)  (Emphasis added.)

3. Part IV of the Schedule of Prices covers reimbursement for
paper used by the contractor in producing the items ordered, and
reads in part as follows:

"IV.  PAPER (to be furnished by the contractor):  The contractor
will be reimbursed for the net number of page-sized leaves of
stock required for each print order.  Cost of any stock required
for makeready or spoilage must be included in the prices quoted".
. . . .
(p. 29 - 30)

4. The section covering "Presswork" reads in pertinent part:

"Covers, when required, will print one or more pages plus
backstrip, if required, . . . ." (p. 13)

5. The contractor performed the printing, binding, and delivery
as required by the Print Orders and submitted invoices for the
work performed.  These invoices included charges for three cover
leaves for each book.

6. By letter of April 14, 1976, the Contracting Officer informed
the contractor of his final decision not to permit payment for
more than two cover leaves per book.  In his letter he reasoned:

"There is no provision in the contract that authorizes payment
for fractional parts of a cover; i.e. spines cannot be considered
as cover units."

7. In a reply dated May 12, 1976, the contractor appealed the
Contracting Officer's decision and made certain statements which
are undisputed, important among which are:

a. The contract year was approximately at mid-point before GPO
reduced the number of cover leaves per book for which GPO would

b. The contractor had bid on this contract with a history of
billing and being paid for 3 cover units by GPO.


The gravamen of the contractor's argument is that the spine or
backstrip of a perfect bound book should be considered as a third
cover leaf for which the contractor is permitted to bill pursuant
to the contract terms.  In coming to this conclusion the
contractor references various sections of the contract which are
set out above in our Findings of Fact, with the exception of the
contract provisions relative to "Perfect Bindings"
(Specifications, p. 14) and to payment for "Fold-ins"
(Specifications, p. 24).

With regard to fold-ins, the contractor argues that because a
whole additional unit payment is permitted for a fraction of a
fold-in (above a designated number of square inches) so, in turn
should a fraction of a cover be considered and billed as an
additional unit.  The logic of this is questionable.  Covers and
fold-ins are distinct items and are separately priced in the
contract.  The section entitled "Perfect Bindings" which is also
omitted from the above Findings of Fact, merely details the
requirements which must be met in terms of strength, flexibility
and elasticity.  It does not pertain to payments for cover units.
In short, these sections are neither material nor relevant to the
instant case.

Covers are discussed in the "Presswork" section of the contract
in the following terms:

"Covers, when required will print one or more sides plus
backstrip, if required. . . ." (Emphasis added) (p. 13)

From this it is evident that the backstrip is considered an
integral part of the covers.  The price for each cover is
established by the contractor's bid and is set-out in the
"Schedule of Prices".  (Reference: Finding of Fact Number 2
above).  It is noted that the prices the contractor submitted
were for text or cover pages with dimensions of over 7 7/8" x 10
1/4" up to 8 1/2" x 11".  The backstrips of the perfect bound
books in this case do not even remotely conform to these
dimensions, and hence cannot be deemed to be a separate cover

It is true that the precise amount of printing required for the
backstrip is not ascertainable prior to receipt of the individual
print order (which specifies the number of pages to be in each
book).  However, this is a cost which can be estimated, based on
averages and prior experience, and can be included in the
contractor's bid.  The contractor always had the option of not
bidding on the contract if it felt the cost variance would be too
great under this type of pricing schedule.

Having considered the relevant contract language concerning the
proper payment for covers, we turn to the issue of estoppel which
implicitly is raised in the contractor's letter of appeal dated
May 12, 1976, which reads in part:

". . . We have been billing GPO in the same manner since 1971, as
well as for the first half of this contract.

"In determining our prices for this contract, we have made no
allowances for any costs to cover this decision in your [GPO
Contracting Officer's] letter. . . ."

In this regard, the contract specifies:

"Payment will be made on the basis of the actual number of units
of each operation as described in the specifications and at the
prices quoted therefor." (p. 5)

It is clear from our reading of the above referenced pricing
provisions that payment should have been certified for only two
covers during the period mentioned by the contractor, assuming
the determinative contract language was the same.  The issue is,
therefore, does estoppel lie against the Government Printing
Office because the contractor has been billing and the Government
Printing Office has been paying for three cover units instead of
two, as permitted under the contract terms?

As a general matter, the government is not estopped by the acts
of its agents.  See Utah Power and Light Company v. United
States, 243 U.S. 389 (1917); United States v. Fallbrook Public
Utility District, 165 F.Supp. 806 (1958); United States v.
Ulvedal, C.A.N.D., 1967, 372 F.2d 31;  Comp. Gen. Dec. B-168619,
January 14, 1970, (Jarrett Press, Inc.).  The narrow exceptions
which exist to this general rule are not pertinent to this case.

From this we conclude, that the history of overcharges which were
erroneously certified and paid by the Government Printing Office
does not serve as a justification for continuing to permit this
practice.  It was and is, therefore, proper and lawful for the
Contracting Officer to disallow payment for the third cover unit
as billed by the contractor.

In view of the above, this appeal is denied.