GSA's Cleaning Costs Are Needlessly Higher Than in the Private Sector

AFMD-81-78: Published: Aug 24, 1981. Publicly Released: Aug 24, 1981.

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GAO conducted a review of the office building cleaning services of the General Services Administration (GSA). By examining the productivity of GSA custodians and comparing their performance to that of private sector custodial firms, GAO was able to identify areas where improvement could yield important cost savings.

GSA is spending considerably more than necessary to clean Federal office space. GSA uses its own in-house cleaners, contracts for cleaning, and has cleaning provided by landlords. At the four regions studied, it costs GSA over 50 percent more to clean with its in-house staff than with contractors and nearly twice as much as its landlords pay to clean leased Federal offices. Low productivity and high wages are the primary causes for the cost differentials. GSA has taken little action to reduce in-house cleaning costs. It has not implemented the provisions of an Office of Management and Budget (OMB) circular which requires GSA to contract for cleaning when it is more economical to do so. GSA has not completed any comparative cost studies nor improved the productivity of its in-house staff in preparation for the required comparative studies. GSA is only slowly converting to contract cleaning as attrition reduces its in-house custodial work force. GSA contractors are required to clean mainly during the day despite industry surveys which showed that night cleaning is 20 to 30 percent more productive. A GSA requirement that cleaning contractors provide a minimum number of staff hours on each contract to help ensure quality is not accomplishing its objective. It eliminates the incentive for contractors to improve productivity and save hours. Multiyear contracts would provide incentives for contractors to maximize efficiency and quality that the present 1-year contracts do not provide.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: GSA is precluded by appropriation legislation from contracting.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should revise the set-aside determination for small businesses so that large contractors can bid on some cleaning contracts, especially those for larger buildings.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should require that cleaning contracts with disadvantaged businesses be obtained at a cost reasonably close to that of competitively bid contracts.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should eliminate the minimum labor hour requirement from cleaning contracts. Thorough preaward surveys and on-site inspections that utilize random sampling techniques should be used to ensure quality.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should allow contractors the flexibility to clean when they deem it most productive. Daytime cleaning constraints should not be imposed unless the cost effectiveness can be documented.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Appropriation legislation has precluded contracting out for three fiscal years and is expected to continue.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should complete the cost comparisons required by OMB Circular A-76 as rapidly as possible to determine whether cleaning services should be provided by in-house staff or contract personnel and develop a plan to implement the study results.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should explore with OMB the use of a streamlined approach for making OMB Circular A-76 cost comparisons for cleaning activities.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should use renewal options, at least on a pilot basis, in cleaning contracts.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

 

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