Architect of the Capitol's Oversight of the Senate Food Service Contract
GAO-17-481R: Published: May 12, 2017. Publicly Released: May 12, 2017.
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The Architect of the Capitol administers contracts to acquire goods and services for the U.S. Capitol complex. In 2015, questions arose regarding the wages for workers employed by the Senate's food service contractor.
We reviewed the AOC's oversight of this contract and found that it had considered this contractor's performance satisfactory in 2015, and extended its contract for another 7 years. However, after the wage issues were identified, the agency enhanced its oversight and required the contractor to provide data on wages paid to its employees.
Photo of the Capitol building.
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What GAO Found
The Architect of the Capitol's (AOC) oversight of the Senate food services contract with Restaurant Associates has been consistent with its established oversight policies and practices, which generally follow the practices prescribed for Executive branch agencies in the Federal Acquisition Regulation. AOC contract administration personnel conduct daily inspections on the quality of food service delivery. When issues arise, Restaurant Associates and AOC personnel discuss them at regular meetings. For issues that persist, the AOC will issue a letter of concern seeking more focused management attention and action to resolve the issue. Prior to December 2015, the AOC did not conduct oversight of the wages being paid by Restaurant Associates to its employees other than for former federal employees who transferred to the contractor. The Department of Labor (DOL) has Service Contract Act (SCA) enforcement responsibility for the wage and fringe benefits requirements of the SCA.
The contractor's generally satisfactory performance was the primary factor the AOC considered when deciding in December 2015 to exercise its option to extend the food services contract for an additional 7-year term. The AOC had not received significant complaints about the contractor's performance and the contractor had been responsive to any issues raised by the AOC. While the AOC's monitoring activities had led the agency to issue letters of concern related to equipment and other issues, the agency had not found it necessary to take the more serious steps of issuing a cure notice or show cause letter. The AOC determined that exercising the option to extend the existing contract with Restaurant Associates was the most advantageous way to satisfy the continuing need for a food services contractor.
The AOC considered various actions to address wage issues that were identified after it exercised the option to extend the term of the contract. After exercising the 7-year option, the AOC learned of allegations that the contractor may have failed to pay the correct wages to some workers because of inaccurate job classifications. Shortly thereafter, a formal complaint on behalf of the affected workers was filed with the DOL.
The DOL found wage violations and the contractor agreed to pay all back wages owed. The DOL is continuing to oversee that commitment. The AOC had a number of possible remedies available to it to deal with the contract performance issue created by the contractor's failure to pay the wages required under the contract, such as terminating the contract, withholding payments, or taking suspension or debarment action. While the AOC determined that none of these actions was warranted in this case given the ongoing review by the DOL and the contractor's corrective actions, the AOC has taken a number of steps to enhance its oversight of the contract, including adding a requirement that the contractor provide data on wages paid to its employees. Based on GAO's review, the AOC's response to the wage payment issue was consistent with its rights and responsibilities under the contract and other applicable authorities.
Why GAO Did This Study
The AOC is responsible for the maintenance, operation, and preservation of the buildings and grounds of the U.S. Capitol complex, which consists of more than 17.4 million square feet of building space and covers 587 acres of ground. Among its many activities, the AOC awards and administers contracts to acquire the goods and services it needs to operate the complex. For example, the AOC contracts with a vendor to operate various food service outlets within the Senate office buildings. In 2015, issues arose regarding possible incorrect job classifications and wages for workers employed by the Senate food service contractor, Restaurant Associates, LLC. GAO was asked to review the oversight actions of the AOC with respect to that contract. This report addresses (1) the extent to which the AOC monitors the performance of its food service contractor in a manner consistent with its prescribed oversight process, (2) the factors AOC considered in deciding to exercise its option to extend the term of the contract, and (3) the steps taken by AOC following the discovery of the wage issue.
GAO reviewed the AOC's contracting policies, interviewed its officials, and assessed its oversight of the food service contract to determine if the agency's efforts were consistent with the terms of the contract and the AOC's contracting policies. Also, GAO reviewed documentation and interviewed officials about how they conducted oversight, how they assured compliance with contract terms, factors they considered before extending the contract, and the extent to which they took or considered remedial actions to address performance deficiencies. GAO met with representatives from Restaurant Associates about actions they took when wage issues were identified, met with DOL officials, and reviewed relevant documents regarding the DOL's investigation of a wage complaint against Restaurant Associates.
What GAO Recommends
GAO is not making any recommendations.
For more information, contact William T. Woods at (202) 512-4841 or WoodsW@gao.gov.