The OIG found that 69% of the contractor work orders it investigated were incomplete.

The OIG found that 69% of the contractor work orders it investigated were incomplete. Tatomm / Getty Images

GSA failing to monitor building maintenance contracts, watchdog says

A new report from the GSA inspector general found that contractors did not complete a majority of maintenance work orders sampled in six federal buildings.

Investigators from the inspector general’s office of the General Services Administration visited a control room at the Jacob K. Javits Federal Building in New York City in January 2023, two months after a maintenance contractor marked complete a work order to repair a leaky pipe valve in the room above a key electrical panel. 

However, the investigators instead discovered in the room a blue recycling bin to collect water from the leaky valve, a situation that could potentially cause “corrosion of electrical components, mechanical parts failure, short circuits, possible fires and can shock someone who touches the cabinet,” an agency equipment specialist told the investigators.

That is one example highlighted by the GSA OIG in a report issued Friday that found some building maintenance contractors for the agency are not consistently complying with their contracts due to poor performance and ineffective oversight. 

The GSA’s Public Buildings Service in fiscal 2023 spent approximately $1.15 billion on 340 operations and maintenance contracts across the country. 

But based on an assessment of 49 work orders across six federal buildings, the OIG reported that contractors did not complete 34 of the 49 sampled work orders, or 69%. Likewise, the office found the contractors did not finish 21 of the 49 work orders — 43% — in a timely manner. 

“We found that [operations and maintenance] contractors did not complete all work orders for service requests and preventive maintenance. In some cases, O&M contractors marked work orders as complete even though the work was not actually completed,” the report said. “O&M contractors also did not complete work orders timely.” 

The OIG laid blame with both the contractors and the PBS. 

Agency personnel told investigators that the number of maintenance contractor staff for five out of the six buildings that the OIG analyzed was not sufficient to cover the contract requirements. Likewise, the office found that officials appointed to monitor contract performance were not always aware of the contractor’s compliance plans. 

The report also highlighted incidents in which contractors thought completing a routine service request within 24 hours meant across three eight-hour working days rather than the required 24 continuous hours after notification. 

PBS Commissioner Elliot Doomes said in response to the report that the agency will work to improve its oversight of maintenance contracts and agreed with each of the OIG’s five recommendations. These include better ensuring that terms and conditions can be fully met before awarding a contract and establishing requirements with respect to contingency plans if the contractor loses onsite personnel. 

Similarly, the OIG in three reports between 2021 and 2022 faulted PBS for failing to properly oversee maintenance contracts.  

The Government Accountability Office reported in March that the GSA hasn’t performed asbestos inspections at 66% of federal buildings that it’s required to inspect.