General Services Administration:

Sustained Attention Required to Improve Performance

GGD-90-14: Published: Nov 6, 1989. Publicly Released: Nov 6, 1989.

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GAO assessed the General Services Administration's (GSA) ability to: (1) effectively manage changes; (2) improve its human resources management to ensure a quality work force; and (3) establish an effective information management structure to support managerial decisions and to ensure effective financial control and oversight.

GAO found that: (1) although GSA should set governmentwide policy and operate activities only where there are advantages to having a central agency involved, continuing management problems prevent it from successfully carrying out this role; (2) GSA delegated certain operational responsibilities to other agencies to try to shift the Public Buildings Service's (PBS) role toward leadership and oversight, but PBS executives did not support shifting building management responsibilities to tenant agencies, since they believed that GSA could provide the services more economically; (3) PBS did not emphasize customer service and lacked procedural uniformity and consistency among its regional offices, and its regional officials did not account for their actions or performance to PBS policymaking officials; (4) human resources issues resulted in a serious decline in PBS ability to provide space in a timely fashion to agencies; and (5) outdated information systems did not provide PBS officials with the information available to determine facility operating costs or to reliably project future leasing requirements. GAO also found that: (1) the Federal Supply Service (FSS) had difficulties competing with the private sector to supply federal agencies and trying to operate within a congressional authorization to recover all its costs; (2) GSA lacked effective leadership because of frequent turnovers in political leadership, lack of career executives' involvement in the planning process, and problems in developing senior executives; (3) inconsistent human resources management contributed to low morale, high turnover, and insufficient staff training and development; and (4) GSA lacked effective information management leadership to properly measure performance and establish accountability for improved service.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Officials from the Federal Supply Service provided information on several special projects designed to better monitor supply operations that were scheduled and completed during this fiscal year.

    Recommendation: To improve GSA financial management systems and provide a sound basis for guiding system development efforts, the Administrator of General Services should continually monitor supply operations and remove from inventory those commodities that are not cost-effective to stock.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's work and the National Performance Review (NPR), GSA committed to end its long-standing support-services monopolies, separate its policy and oversight responsibilities from service delivery, restructure the Public Buildings Service and improve how it interfaces with customer agencies, and use private-sector practices as benchmarks to enable it to reform the way it does business. GSA is committed to: (1) continuing to streamline and reengineer its current functions; (2) establish an agencywide Office of Policy and Oversight to enhance its ability to carry out effective governmentwide policy and oversight; and (3) identify the most cost-effective method of carrying out each of its 16 major mission-support functions or business lines. Until GSA completes its analyses of its 16 major business lines, GSA's future role in the federal support-services area is in question.

    Recommendation: To ensure a smooth transition, the Administrator of General Services should direct the Commissioner, PBS, to develop a comprehensive plan and timetable for implementing this role change. This plan, developed in consultation with the agencies, should include the elements outlined in this report and should be shared with OMB and Congress to ensure their commitment and support for the change.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: To improve the oversight and management of agency-managed buildings, GSA now requires agencies to provide additional cost and expense information on their building operations. GSA has also taken steps designed to obtain more and better building performance data.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should direct the Commissioner, PBS, to strengthen delegation oversight and contract administration to ensure that the value and integrity of the facilities assets are preserved and that they are used effectively to support government programs.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's work and the National Performance Review (NPR), GSA committed to end its long-standing support-services monopolies, separate its policy and oversight responsibilities from service delivery, restructure the Public Buildings Service and improve how it interfaces with customer agencies, and use private-sector practices as benchmarks to enable it to reform the way it does business. GSA is committed to: (1) continuing to streamline and reengineer its current functions; (2) establish an agencywide Office of Policy and Oversight to enhance its ability to carry out effective governmentwide policy and oversight; and (3) identify the most cost-effective method of carrying out each of its 16 major mission-support functions or business lines. Until GSA completes its analyses of its 16 major business lines, GSA's future role in the federal support-services area is in question.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should direct the Commissioner, PBS, to develop policy procedures, guidance, and other support mechanisms to help agencies use and manage their facilities strategically as tools to accomplish the goals and objectives of their missions and programs.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's work and the National Performance Review (NPR), GSA committed to end its long-standing support-services monopolies, separate its policy and oversight responsibilities from service delivery, restructure the Public Buildings Service and improve how it interfaces with customer agencies, and use private-sector practices as benchmarks to enable it to reform the way it does business. GSA is committed to: (1) continuing to streamline and reengineer its current functions; (2) establish an agencywide Office of Policy and Oversight to enhance its ability to carry out effective governmentwide policy and oversight; and (3) identify the most cost-effective method of carrying out each of its 16 major mission-support functions or business lines. Until GSA completes its analyses of its 16 major business lines, GSA's future role in the federal support-services area is in question.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should direct the Commissioner, PBS, to focus efforts primarily on strategic management issues, such as the size and location of government facilities, when and how new facilities are to be acquired, and when it is in the government's best interests to modernize and renovate a building or to sell it.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA stated that it will continue to implement OMB Circular A-76 and abide by the "Edgar" Amendment. The method used for building management services in a particular facility will depend on the needs of the client agency and the economies of the situation.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should direct the Commissioner, PBS, to expand the use of contracts for building management services in multitenant and other buildings where it would not be feasible to delegate to the tenants.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA now requires agencies to provide additional cost and expense information on their building operations. GSA has also taken steps designed to obtain more and better building performance data.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should direct the Commissioner, PBS, to revise the information reporting requirements under building delegations to require agencies to report all operating cost and performance information needed to determine annual operating expenses and to oversee delegated building management.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA stated that authority for virtually all single-tenant buildings has been delegated. In addition, it will continue to consider additional building delegations and delegations of major repair and alteration authority on a case-by-case basis. GAO does not agree that GSA has done enough to identify all opportunities to expand building delegations. It does not appear that GSA will do much more.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should direct the Commissioner, PBS, to expand the delegation of building management authority to cover additional buildings where agencies are capable of and willing to assume these responsibilities, and delegate, on a case-by-case basis, major repair and alteration authority to agencies capable of carrying out these activities.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA has not established an executive candidate pool to develop the skills and capabilities of senior management personnel for SES consideration as vacancies occur. According to GSA officials, the GSA executive resources board decided not to establish a candidate pool because its members endorse an approach that allows all qualified persons to apply for executive positions when vacancies occur.

    Recommendation: To strengthen GSA efforts to develop and maintain an effective senior executive cadre, the Administrator of General Services should institute an active program that will develop the managerial and executive skills and capabilities of the agency's managers to provide a pool of qualified personnel for Senior Executive Service (SES) consideration as vacancies occur.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  10. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The GSA Managerial Excellence Program was designed to provide opportunities for all supervisors and managers to obtain the full range of managerial competencies.

    Recommendation: To strengthen GSA efforts to develop and maintain an effective senior executive cadre, the Administrator of General Services should implement an executive development program that includes core technical and managerial training requirements for all senior executives and elective courses to update executive skills in areas such as change management, quality management, human resources management, performance measurement, and financial management.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  11. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA changed the reporting channels, and now regional administrators report directly to the Deputy Administrator. They previously reported to a staff office.

    Recommendation: To improve executive performance management and to better hold executives accountable for agency and program results, the Administrator of General Services should identify ways to ensure that central office policies and goals are effectively carried out in the regions.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  12. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: ExecuTrac is used as the basis for discussion of the progress and problems GSA encounters in meeting agency objectives at meetings of GSA executives.

    Recommendation: To improve executive performance management and to better hold executives accountable for agency program results, the Administrator of General Services should use the ExecuTrac system to support the strategic planning process and collect information on plan accomplishments and key performance indicators to hold managers accountable.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  13. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA executives are also expected to supplement their performance plans with specific objectives that can address plan milestones, service goals, and other specific assignments.

    Recommendation: To improve executive performance management and to better hold executives accountable for agency and program results, the Administrator of General Services should ensure that performance plans articulate clear, realistic, and, where possible, measurable goals and objectives so that the senior executives' contributions to the achievement of agency, service, and unit goals and objectives can be accurately assessed.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  14. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA is doing more now to monitor executives' performance and to ensure that program goals and objectives are met. GSA developed a new standard performance plan for senior executives that identifies critical elements for all of GSA executives and performance standards or benchmarks to measure accomplishments.

    Recommendation: To improve executive performance management and to better hold executives accountable for agency and program results, the Administrator of General Services should ensure that each senior executive's performance plan is tied to agency, service, and unit goals and objectives, and that all Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 assessment criteria are used in developing performance objectives and measurements.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  15. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA did not involve key congressional representatives and OMB staff with the strategic planning process and the resulting goals and objectives to be achieved, but GSA did provide copies of the final plan to Congress and OMB.

    Recommendation: To strengthen GSA efforts to prepare effectively for the future, the Administrator of General Services should familiarize other key organizations, particularly the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Congress, with the GSA strategic plan.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  16. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA has taken action to improve the link between the planning and budget formulation processes. The guidance for the 1992 budget formulation process directs managers to use the strategic plan as a basis for developing budget estimates.

    Recommendation: To strengthen GSA efforts to prepare effectively for the future, the Administrator of General Services should strengthen the links among strategic planning, operational planning, and budget development by using the strategic plan to drive budget development and deriving operational plans from the strategic plan.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  17. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA has adopted TQM as an agency priority. In fiscal year 1990, GSA began providing TQM to its employees and nearly all of its senior executives had attended at least one course. GSA has also formed a national quality council, designated a TQM officer, and is beginning to identify its customers' needs -- an important TQM element.

    Recommendation: To help develop a customer-oriented focus to PBS operations, the Administrator of General Services should direct the Commissioner, PBS, to provide total quality management (TQM) training to PBS personnel.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  18. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA cited its development of effective partnerships with customer agencies through annual Partnership Administration Conferences; regular meetings of the PBS Real Property Executive Advisory Committee, the GSA Client Relations Advisory Board, and GSA meetings with client agencies.

    Recommendation: To help develop a customer-oriented focus to PBS operations, the Administrator of General Services should direct the Commissioner, PBS, to develop effective partnerships with customer agencies.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  19. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA stated that its Office of Financial Management Systems will continue to ensure improvement in financial management continues.

    Recommendation: To improve GSA financial management systems and provide a sound basis for guiding system development efforts, the Administrator of General Services should ensure that the Office of Financial Management Systems is provided with the necessary resources to improve GSA financial management.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  20. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's work and the National Performance Review (NPR), GSA committed to end its long-standing support-services monopolies, separate its policy and oversight responsibilities from service delivery, restructure the Public Buildings Service and improve how it interfaces with customer agencies, and use private-sector practices as benchmarks to enable it to reform the way it does business. GSA is committed to: (1) continuing to streamline and reengineer its current functions; (2) establish an agencywide Office of Policy and Oversight to enhance its ability to carry out effective governmentwide policy and oversight; and (3) identify the most cost-effective method of carrying out each of its 16 major mission-support functions or business lines. Until GSA completes its analyses of its 16 major business lines, GSA's future role in the federal support-services area is in question.

    Recommendation: To improve GSA financial management systems and provide a sound basis for guiding system development efforts, the Administrator of General Services should complete an agencywide financial systems plan as part of the development of the agency's information architecture.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  21. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA revised the charter for the IRM Executive Steering Committee to further strengthen management information oversight. The revised charter provides a more active role for GSA top management.

    Recommendation: To improve the GSA internal IRM environment and establish a framework for meeting its financial and program management information needs, the Administrator of General Services should strengthen GSA top management oversight of systems development and implementation of new systems by involving the existing automatic data processing steering committee appropriately.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  22. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's work and the National Performance Review (NPR), GSA committed to end its long-standing support-services monopolies, separate its policy and oversight responsibilities from service delivery, restructure the Public Buildings Service and improve how it interfaces with customer agencies, and use private-sector practices as benchmarks to enable it to reform the way it does business. GSA is committed to: (1) continuing to streamline and reengineer its current functions; (2) establish an agencywide Office of Policy and Oversight to enhance its ability to carry out effective governmentwide policy and oversight; and (3) identify the most cost-effective method of carrying out each of its 16 major mission-support functions or business lines. Until GSA completes its analyses of its 16 major business lines, GSA's future role in the federal support-services area is in question.

    Recommendation: To improve the GSA internal information resources management environment and establish a framework for meeting its financial and program management information needs, the Administrator of General Services should develop an agencywide information architecture that identifies and links all information needs, both financial and nonfinancial, with appropriate systems applications and related hardware to carry out the GSA mission and program objectives.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  23. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's work and the National Performance Review (NPR), GSA committed to end its long-standing support-services monopolies, separate its policy and oversight responsibilities from service delivery, restructure the Public Buildings Service and improve how it interfaces with customer agencies, and use private-sector practices as benchmarks to enable it to reform the way it does business. GSA is committed to: (1) continuing to streamline and reengineer its current functions; (2) establish an agencywide Office of Policy and Oversight to enhance its ability to carry out effective governmentwide policy and oversight; and (3) identify the most cost-effective method of carrying out each of its 16 major mission-support functions or business lines. Until GSA completes its analyses of its 16 major business lines, GSA's future role in the federal support-services area is in question.

    Recommendation: To improve the GSA internal information resources management (IRM) environment and establish a framework for meeting its financial and program management information needs, the Administrator of General Services should remove internal IRM responsibilities from the IRM Commissioner and assign them to a new senior IRM official, such as an Associate Administrator for Information, whose sole responsibilities are to strengthen and improve the management of GSA information resources.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  24. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA views GCAP as an advisory group without this authority and, therefore, believes it should not be the vehicle for setting up a human resources agenda. As an alternative, GCAP decided that each member would provide comments, if warranted, on proposed human resources initiatives from the Office of Personnel. GSA recently abolished GCAP.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should direct the GSA Career Advisory Panel to set up a human resources management agenda with specific objectives and goals that can be used in SES performance plans.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  25. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA views GCAP as an advisory group without this authority and, therefore, believes it should not be the vehicle for setting up a human resources agenda. As an alternative, GCAP decided that each member would provide comments, if warranted, on proposed human resources initiatives from the Office of Personnel. GSA recently abolished GCAP.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should direct the GSA Career Advisory Panel (GCAP) to provide oversight in the development of the human resources planning system.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  26. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: To improve its personnel management evaluation activities, GSA conducted an on-site evaluation in Region 6 on July 26, 1991. GSA officials plan to conduct two regional evaluations each fiscal year.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should assess the level of central personnel office resources needed to ensure that the office can: (1) help develop a human resources planning system in conjunction with line managers; and (2) improve personnel management evaluation of service and regional activities.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  27. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 1991, GSA initiated a process that combined development and training programs with its human resources planning system. The human resources planning system was revised and is to become operational in FY 1993.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should develop stronger employee development and training programs that are based on requirements identified in the human resources plan and input received from across the organization.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  28. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA developed a human resources planning system in September 1990 and tested it in 1991. GSA made revisions and is planning for the system to be operational in fiscal year (FY) 1993.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should establish and maintain an active human resources planning system that is integrated with other planning processes to identify future staff resources requirements and stipulate how these resources will be acquired.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  29. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Regional administrators now participate in GSA quarterly general management reviews. They now report directly to the Deputy Administrator. In addition, quarterly management meetings are held with deputy regional administrators to address their needs and concerns.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should direct the Commissioner, PBS, to reassess the existing relationship between headquarters and regional staff and officials responsible for facilities management in terms of authority, responsibility, accountability, and lines of communications to better ensure consistent, correct implementation of policies and goals.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  30. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's work and the National Performance Review (NPR), GSA committed to end its long-standing support-services monopolies, separate its policy and oversight responsibilities from service delivery, restructure the Public Buildings Service and improve how it interfaces with customer agencies, and use private-sector practices as benchmarks to enable it to reform the way it does business. GSA is committed to: (1) continuing to streamline and reengineer its current functions; (2) establish an agencywide Office of Policy and Oversight to enhance its ability to carry out effective governmentwide policy and oversight; and (3) identify the most cost-effective method of carrying out each of its 16 major mission-support functions or business lines. Until GSA completes its analyses of its 16 major business lines, GSA's future role in the federal support-services area is in question.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should direct the Commissioner, PBS, to acquire and implement a new facilities management information system capable of: (1) collecting, analyzing, and disseminating this information; and (2) exchanging information with other GSA information systems as needed.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  31. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's work and the National Performance Review (NPR), GSA committed to end its long-standing support-services monopolies, separate its policy and oversight responsibilities from service delivery, restructure the Public Buildings Service and improve how it interfaces with customer agencies, and use private-sector practices as benchmarks to enable it to reform the way it does business. GSA is committed to: (1) continuing to streamline and reengineer its current functions; (2) establish an agencywide Office of Policy and Oversight to enhance its ability to carry out effective governmentwide policy and oversight; and (3) identify the most cost-effective method of carrying out each of its 16 major mission-support functions or business lines. Until GSA completes its analyses of its 16 major business lines, GSA's future role in the federal support-services area is in question.

    Recommendation: The Administrator of General Services should direct the Commissioner, PBS, to develop a new facilities management information structure and redefine the relevant management information needed to manage facilities' assets strategically, evaluate facilities' costs and performance, and oversee delegated functions.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  32. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA executives agreed that a special group to act as a focal point was not needed. Instead, the executives agreed that special training was needed so that staff would be better prepared to handle problems raised by the client agencies.

    Recommendation: To help develop a customer-oriented focus to PBS operations, the Administrator of General Services should direct the Commissioner, PBS, to maintain a one-stop focal point within the central office and regions to field customer inquiries, requests, and complaints.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  33. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA established advisory councils in the regions. These councils are made up of federal agencies' representatives and GSA staff. Their purpose is to resolve problems, discuss new initiatives, and suggest program improvements.

    Recommendation: To help develop a customer-oriented focus to PBS operations, the Administrator of General Services should direct the Commissioner, PBS, to set up regional advisory councils made up of the agencies served in the region to evaluate new program ideas, program changes, and suggestions for improvements and to provide feedback on the quality of services.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  34. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA demonstrated a strong commitment to strengthening the planning process by including all senior executives in the development of the strategic plans and familiarizing employees with the plans and their purposes.

    Recommendation: To strengthen GSA efforts to prepare effectively for the future, the Administrator of General Services should make the integrated strategic planning process being developed an intrinsic part of GSA management practices for establishing broad consensus on goals and objectives across the agency.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

 

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