Architect of the Capitol:

Management Challenges Remain

GAO-06-290: Published: Feb 21, 2006. Publicly Released: Feb 22, 2006.

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The Architect of the Capitol (AOC) is responsible for the maintenance, renovation, and new construction of the Capitol Hill complex, which comprises more than three dozen facilities and consists of nine jurisdictions, such as the U.S. Capitol and the Senate and House Office Buildings. In 2003, at the request of Congress, GAO issued a management review of AOC that contained recommendations in seven areas to help AOC become more strategic and accountable. GAO reported on AOC's progress in implementing those recommendations in January and August 2004. In 2005 and 2006, GAO briefed Congress on AOC's recent progress in implementing GAO's recommendations and on issues related to AOC's project and facilities management. This report summarizes GAO's (1) assessment of AOC's progress in implementing previous GAO recommendations and in improving project and facilities management and (2) delineation of remaining management challenges.

Overall, AOC is making progress in implementing GAO's previous recommendations and in improving project and facilities management. For example, AOC has implemented 21 of 54 recommendations, established a central organization for managing major projects, and completed assessments of nearly all of the agency's facilities, for use in developing a comprehensive facility maintenance and building renewal plan. AOC has also begun initiatives to develop meaningful performance measures and to restructure its project management information systems to provide better data for monitoring and reporting. These initiatives, though encouraging, are in their early stages, and it is too early to determine their success. In recent briefings provided to AOC management and congressional staff, GAO made additional recommendations to improve the accountability and effectiveness of AOC's project and facilities management initiatives. AOC has made progress in some areas, but still has a significant amount of work ahead to achieve its ultimate goal of establishing a strong strategic management and accountability framework. Specifically, it has not completed initiatives to address two critical issues--communication with external stakeholders and development of internal controls--identified in previous GAO recommendations or in independent audits of AOC's 2003 and 2004 balance sheets. These issues affect a wide range of AOC operations. For example, communication with congressional stakeholders is essential to establish and clarify service and expectation levels. Internal controls, such as reliable cost account system, sound procurement practices, and a comprehensive information security program, are necessary to, respectively, improve project and facilities management, strengthen the integrity of AOC's procurement processes, and effectively safeguard AOC's data and information access. Leadership support is vital to ensure that needed improvements are given urgent attention; this support is also essential to ensure that improvements that have already been made are continuously evaluated and refined as needed. However, the key leadership positions of Chief Operating Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Administrative Officer, Director of the Capitol Power Plant, Director of Congressional and External Relations, and Director of Planning and Project Management are currently vacant. Furthermore, the term for the current Architect of the Capitol will expire in less than a year. AOC is at a critical juncture in its efforts to become more strategic and accountable. Quickly filling the vacant management positions with qualified people is essential for AOC to sustain and extend its recent improvement and to have a cohesive management team in place in the event of a turnover in the Architect of the Capitol position. AOC is now attempting to fill the vacant leadership positions, and, to mitigate the impact of these vacancies, it recently appointed an Acting Chief Operating Officer--who is also temporarily serving as the Acting Chief Financial Officer--and an Acting Chief Administrative Officer to help guide the agency's improvement efforts.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To improve internal controls related to project management, the AOC should develop a method to establish and track more accurate budget targets, which could include tracking and reporting on the accuracy of cost estimates compared with bids, the accuracy of project budgets compared with final project costs, the amount of excess project funds and how these funds are used, and cost data for the Construction Branch.

    Agency Affected: Architect of the Capitol

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AOC's Technical Services Division Cost Estimating Group is using a new system to develop estimates for project contracts over $250,000. Additionally, for in-house projects executed by AOC's Construction Division, Technical Services and Construction Division personnel are collaboratively working to standardize and prepare cost estimates. AOC has implemented a Construction Division peer review process and also reorganized the division to include a program analyst. The Construction Division also holds monthly program reviews to monitor cost and schedule, including current working estimates for projects conducted by the division. Work still remains to achieve full implementation of this recommendation. AOC needs to produce data and information that accurately reflects current working estimates for projects, accounting for changes in project allotments, obligations, expenditures and schedules, among other things. AOC's current Construction Division Program Reviews, which are issued monthly, do not accurately reflect such changes.

    Recommendation: To improve internal controls related to project management, the AOC should expedite the development of a customer satisfaction survey for construction services.

    Agency Affected: Architect of the Capitol

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AOC completed the development of its customer satisfaction survey for construction services in March 2006.

    Recommendation: To improve internal controls related to project management, the AOC should clarify the roles and responsibilities of staff in the new Project Management Organization.

    Agency Affected: Architect of the Capitol

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AOC defined roles and responsibilities and completed position descriptions for the jurisdictional executives, project managers, and construction managers. AOC has discussed and plans to continue discussing these roles and responsibilities at its staff meetings and individually with the jurisdictional executives, project managers, and construction managers.

    Recommendation: To improve internal controls related to project management, the AOC should review project management guidance manuals.

    Agency Affected: Architect of the Capitol

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AOC has identified revisions for and continuously revises its project management manuals. These manuals are made available through AOC's internal network. AOC tracks compliance with the manuals through its project performance measures.

    Recommendation: To improve internal controls related to project management, the AOC should develop or modify information systems to provide needed cost and schedule data on projects and track reasons for changes across all projects.

    Agency Affected: Architect of the Capitol

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AOC currently tracks cost and schedule data and reasons for changes across all projects in its quarterly status report--a report that is manually prepared and not supported by AOC's current information systems. AOC's steering group, the Project Information Center Business Reengineering Task Force, identified AOC's project information system requirements, which included the automation of AOC's quarterly construction projects progress report. AOC officials noted that reengineering of the project information system is one of AOC's top project management priorities for AOC. AOC requested funding for an assessment of the current system in its fiscal year 2007 budget. In the interim, AOC plans to begin modifying the current project information system with available in-house resources in fiscal year 2007 and requested funding for further modifications in its fiscal year 2008 budget. AOC needs to complete the modification of its project information system to assist managers in more proactively managing projects, provide needed cost and schedule data on projects, and track reasons for changes across all projects.

    Recommendation: To improve how AOC measures its performance in the areas of timeliness and cost, the agency should develop and track more specific timeliness measures that more accurately reflect the amount of time required to complete tasks.

    Agency Affected: Architect of the Capitol

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In February 2006, we reported that the Architect of the Capitol's (AOC) timeliness measures for facilities management could be improved to better represent the amount of time required for specific tasks. For example, AOC used a standard timeliness measure of 30 days for all tasks, even though many tasks take less time to complete. In response to this recommendation, AOC assigned priorities (Priority 1, 3, or 5) to various tasks and developed timeliness measure for each priority; priority 1 tasks should be completed within 7 days, priority 3 tasks should be completed within 2 days, and priority 5 tasks should be completed within 4 hours. Accomplishment report GAO-10-2612A is being prepared.

    Recommendation: To improve how AOC measures its performance in the areas of timeliness and cost, the agency should develop the capability to comprehensively and routinely track cost measures.

    Agency Affected: Architect of the Capitol

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: AOC is tracking timeliness of work order fulfillment with its facilities management information system and will use system data to inform expected service delivery times, which AOC's Standards Committee will validate this year. AOC officials said the committee is also in the process of determining what type of service standards AOC should further develop.

    Recommendation: To improve how AOC measures its performance in the areas of timeliness and cost, the agency should benchmark appropriate existing and new performance measures against those of similar institutions, such as the Smithsonian Institution and state capitols.

    Agency Affected: Architect of the Capitol

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: To benchmark performance measures, AOC met with the General Services Administration in late 2007 and has plans to meet with the Smithsonian Institution in early 2008. Additionally, AOC performed benchmarking for cleaning services in several jurisdictions and continues to use the International Facilities Management Association (IFMA) operations and maintenance benchmarks to further develop performance measures. AOC officials said the agency will also use workload data collected throughout fiscal years 2007 and 2008 as a management tool for benchmarking.

    Recommendation: AOC should use the new computer-aided facility management system to track preventative maintenance and demand work orders across all jurisdictions, including the time taken to complete work orders.

    Agency Affected: Architect of the Capitol

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In February 2006, we reported that the Architect of the Capitol (AOC) used its facilities management information system to track demand work orders, but did not consistently track preventive maintenance work orders. By not tracking preventive maintenance work orders, AOC could not compare how much preventive maintenance AOC's jurisdictions were performing with how much was recommended. At the time of our report, AOC was replacing its existing facilities management information system. We recommended that AOC use the new facilities management information system to track preventive maintenance and demand work orders across all jurisdictions. As of March 31, 2009, AOC was using its new facilities management information system to track preventive maintenance work orders and had developed measures to track performance. Accomplishment report GAO-10-2617A is being prepared.

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