General Services Administration:

Travel and Training Activities of the Public Buildings Service

GGD-99-40R: Published: Feb 19, 1999. Publicly Released: Feb 19, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the travel and training activities of employees of the Public Buildings Service (PBS), focusing on PBS': (1) limits on expenditures and obligations for travel and training; (2) off-site events sponsored by PBS' Central Office and National Capital Region (NCR); (3) trips taken by staff in the Commissioner's office; and (4) employees attending management training programs.

GAO noted that: (1) the fiscal year (FY) 1997 limit imposed through the appropriations process on the amounts PBS could expend on travel was about 62 percent higher than the limit imposed on travel spending for FY 1992 when adjusted for inflation; (2) in FY 1998, the appropriations act for General Services Administration (GSA) did not include a provision limiting PBS travel expenditures; (3) there is no comparable limit on the amounts PBS can expend for training; (4) when adjusted for inflation, PBS' FY 1998 travel obligations were 34 percent higher than its FY 1992 travel obligations, and its FY 1998 training obligations were 23 percent lower than its FY 1992 training obligations; (5) however, on an annual basis, obligations for travel and training fluctuated; (6) according to PBS officials, increases in travel were primarily related to the New York World Trade Center bombing in 1994 and security issues during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia; (7) also, increases in training occurred based on the need to train staff in a new computer system and new business processes, resulting from planned changes in the way PBS would conduct business in the future; (8) PBS identified 27 off-site events that were sponsored by the Central Office at a total cost of $2.7 million and 6 off-site NCR events that cost a total of $276,862; (9) all of these events were held during fiscal years 1996 through 1998; (10) most of the events were regularly scheduled recurring management conferences; (11) also, during fiscal years 1996 through 1998, staff in the PBS Commissioner's office travelled 256 times at a cost of about $200,000; (12) according to PBS data, 15 of its employees attended management development programs at GSA's expense in fiscal years 1995 through 1998; (13) according to PBS officials, all 15 of these employees were still employed by GSA as of February 4, 1999; and (14) the number of PBS staff sent to these types of programs has declined over the years, with no additional employees being sent in FY 1998.

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