National Parks:

Views on the Denver Service Center and Information on Related Construction Activities

RCED-95-79: Published: Jun 23, 1995. Publicly Released: Jun 23, 1995.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the quality and timeliness of services provided by National Park Services' (NPS) Denver Service Center, focusing on: (1) how NPS sets priorities for funding construction projects and how Congress modifies those priorities during consideration of annual NPS budget requests; (2) the process NPS uses to develop project cost estimates; and (3) the makeup of the projects' contingency and supervision funds.

GAO found that: (1) park managers were generally satisfied with the Center's service quality and timeliness for projects completed during fiscal year (FY) 1991 through FY 1993; (2) reported problems did not appear to be systemic, since they varied among the construction projects and park units; (3) park managers' decisions not to use the Center's services were generally not based on concerns about the quality of those services; (4) NPS sets construction priorities through a bottom-up decision making process with input from individual park units; (5) NPS is planning to revise its priority-setting process, since the current process is not based on objective criteria; (6) Congress often funds construction projects in addition to those on the NPS priority list, and also provides funding levels far above those requested by NPS; (7) the gap between NPS budget requests and appropriations is narrowing because of annual limits on discretionary spending; (8) although the Center develops and refines cost estimates prior to funding requests, congressionally designated projects are often funded before they are planned and designed; (9) contingency and project supervision costs are usually included in project cost estimates; and (10) historically, contingencies and project supervision have accounted for 16 percent and 15 percent, respectively, of a project's cost, but there are no standards for reasonable contingency or supervision costs.

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