Park Service:

Need to Address Management Problems That Plague the Concessions Program

RCED-00-70: Published: Mar 31, 2000. Publicly Released: Apr 6, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the National Parks Concession Program management problems, focusing on: (1) factors affecting the condition of lodging facilities in the national park system; and (2) options available to address these factors.

GAO noted that: (1) after considering numerous site-specific factors that could potentially affect the condition of lodging facilities--such as whether the facilities were used year-round or just seasonally, whether the facilities were owned by the government or by the concessioner, whether the facilities were designated as historic structures, and others--GAO found that the most significant factors are those involving the agency's overall approach to managing the program; (2) specifically, the management problems center on three areas: (a) inadequate qualifications and training of the agency's concessions specialists and concession contracting staff; (b) the agency's out-of-date practices in handling its contracting workload and chronic backlog of expired contracts; and (c) a lack of accountability within the concessions program; (3) for the most part, these problems are long-standing and are consistent with similar concerns raised by the Department of the Interior, its Office of the Inspector General, and National Park Service concessions staff; (4) because of these problems, the Park Service frequently has difficulty managing the performance of its concessioners to ensure a consistent level of quality in the services and facilities they provide; (5) the Park Service has two principal options for dealing with the problems identified in its management of the concessions program: (a) using better hiring and training practices to professionalize its workforce and thus obtain better business and contracting expertise; or (b) contracting out to acquire the needed business and contracting expertise; (6) these two options are not mutually exclusive in that the agency could contract for expertise in certain functions while developing expertise in-house for other functions; (7) both options require that the agency better manage its human capital to ensure that it selects, trains, develops, and manages concessions staff who have the skills needed to bring about improvement in the concessions program; (8) regardless of what options--or combination of options--it selects, the agency needs to strengthen its accountability for control of the program; and (9) unless this is done, the effectiveness of other changes to the program will likely be diminished.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Park Service has made significant progress in this area. It has contracted with a major consulting firm to obtain expertise in managing large hospitality assets. In addition, the agency has begun providing training on hospitality management to its concessions staff through Northern Arizona University's Hotel and Restaurant Management program.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should require the Director, National Park Service, to increase the effectiveness of the concessions management program by improving the qualifications of the concessions staff (including improving their training in writing and administering contracts), contracting for these services, or using some combination of the two approaches.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The National Park Service established a task force to update inspection and rate approval standards and processes, and to identify options for conducting inspections. NPS also contracted with PricewaterhouseCoopers to revise evaluation classifications and standards for lodging, food/beverage, marinas, and retail operations. NPS, along with PricewaterhouseCoopers, will be pilot-testing the revised standards in late 2004. In addition, the agency tasked PricewaterhouseCoopers to evaluate the feasibility of using third party inspection entities, such as AAA or Mobil, to perform inspections of lodging operations throughout the Park Service. These actions satisfy the intent of the recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should require the Director, National Park Service, to improve the accountability of park managers by establishing a formal process for performing periodic independent inspections of lodging operations throughout the park system. These concessioners' inspection teams should determine if the facilities and services being provided meet the agency's standards and report identified deficiencies to the head of the agency for corrective action.

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

 

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