Problems Overwhelm GSA's Systems Furniture Test Program

PSAD-80-62: Published: Jul 28, 1980. Publicly Released: Jul 28, 1980.

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The General Services Administration (GSA) launched its Systems Furniture Test (SFT) Program in 1978 to demonstrate that modular-type furniture saved space and was cost effective. The objectives of the GSA systems furniture program would be carried out through: (1) placing systems furniture in Government space; (2) maximizing the chances of successful installations; (3) minimizing problems by use of specific reviews, strict qualifications, and tight process controls; and (4) demonstrating space savings and cost effectiveness over the life of each project.

Except for placing systems furniture in Government space, the GSA program has been a failure. Its management of the program has also been poor. GSA embarked on a major expansion of the program during the second year without establishing a ceiling on the number of projects or evaluating the costs incurred under the test program. Also, this expansion was undertaken before GSA received even preliminary data from a consultant employed to evaluate the program. Further, GSA did not consider any alternatives to systems furniture or require agencies to provide sufficient data to make cost-benefit analyses. In addition to these problems, the SFT program failed to demonstrate space savings or cost effectiveness and did not address the effect on employee morale and productivity. GSA lacked effective direction and control; its review of applications was superficial; and its approval of a recent project showed a continuation of past trends. In this case, the space savings were greatly exaggerated; the cost-benefit analysis contained erroneous and incomplete data; and GSA review overlooked significant questionable data items which should have raised serious questions about the project.

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