I appreciate the work that the Office of the DC Auditor and their external partners put into their review of work management practices at the Department of General Services (DGS) based on 2021 data. As chair of the Council committee with oversight of DGS, I find the report unsurprising and, unfortunately, in line with the operations failures we’ve seen for years.
As the Auditor noted in her report, DGS has the tools it needs to be effective. It has the funding and resources because, in response to DGS requests, I’ve worked with the Mayor and Council to increase DGS’s budget for DCPS maintenance. District residents deserve a functioning construction and maintenance agency for our public facilities. I fought for and secured the creation of the first-ever public-facing online dashboard to give public school staff and families transparency into maintenance issues and unacceptable wait times for repairs. Because of my committee’s close oversight of DGS, we achieved improvements in HVAC repairs and school readiness prior to students returning this fall. My committee has made headway, but, as the Auditor’s report illustrates, DGS faces pervasive issues as an agency.
We need to see significant improvement in communication between DGS and client agencies like DCPS about ongoing facilities issues, and we need DGS to act with urgency on repairs—particularly work orders tied to staff and student health and safety. I am particularly concerned by the Auditor’s finding that repair workers frequently use stock images from the internet rather than actual before and after photos of work orders. In addition, although DGS has improved its use of warranty rights to cover major shortcomings, the Auditor’s observation of lack of compliance with manufacturers’ warranties is a sobering reminder that potentially millions of the District’s dollars are on the line.
I plan to hold a public roundtable to get answers from DGS, something I’ve done regularly over the past several years, but at the end of the day, DGS needs a culture change. My Council colleagues and I will continue meeting regularly with DGS for vigorous oversight reviews, and I expect DGS to swiftly comply with the Auditor’s recommendations. As the Mayor and her budget team work on their budget proposal for the spring, they should also pay close attention to the Auditor’s suggestions regarding enhanced preventive maintenance coordination. The Auditor’s report makes it clear that DGS must make significant reforms. I am committed to ensuring the agency has what it needs to properly maintain District government buildings and holding DGS accountable as they work to implement reforms.