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New auditor's report digs into maintenance issues at DCPS schools

Multiple DCPS schools are awaiting repairs to HVAC units, broken door locks, and security cameras. DC's auditor says the District should track work orders better.

WASHINGTON — A new report from the DC Auditor’s office shows some public District buildings are not being repaired in a timely manner.

The auditor’s office [ODCA] released its report, titled, Multiple Failures in DGS Management of Work Orders, on Monday. It was prepared by RSM US LLP.

The District Department of General Services [DGS] holds the responsibility of managing work orders in DCPS schools, District government buildings, libraries, and other District properties.

In April, DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson wrote DC Auditor Kathy Patterson a letter requesting her office analyze the processes used by DGS to handle DCPS maintenance needs.

He claimed the department was systemically inefficient.

“Every public school complains that its maintenance needs are backlogged, that requests frequently have to be resubmitted, that repairs often necessitate callbacks, and that some major problems persist, unfixed for years,” Mendelson’s letter reads.

WUSA9 has also covered multiple stories detailing issues with HVAC units, broken door locks, and security cameras in DCPS schools.

Patterson said DGS does have the tools it needs to perform the work requested of it around the District, but it’s not tracking work orders properly.

“Our construction audit experts that did this review found that DGS has a very good database and good software,” Patterson said. “So, they could be tracking the work they're doing, but they're not. They're not effectively using the material that they have. They're in need of training. They're in need of supervision.”

ODCA’s report goes into detail about DGS’ use of its computer maintenance management system, or CMMS. DGS uses the system to manage work orders, record the length of time it takes to address repairs, and document labor and materials used at building sites.

The report made seven observations about DGS operations, concerning everything from improper documentation to workflow issues.

  • Work order cost data was inconsistently recorded in the CMMS.
  • Supplementary information and supporting documentation was inconsistently captured within the CMMS.
  • A comprehensive preventative maintenance program has not been implemented, instead, the District uses a manual process to track, schedule and perform preventative services.
  • The report noted missing information related to system-generated “Work Order Histories” and the documentation of individual workflow steps within the CMMS
  • Certain functions within the “SMART DGS” work order management platform may not be appropriately or ideally segregated.
  • Some sample work orders were not in compliance with DGS’ Service Level Agreement.
  • Consistent KPI monitoring and reporting procedures have not been adopted.

“The effectiveness of a work order system is dependent on data input by end users,” the report reads. “The data input must be complete, accurate, consistent, and timely to realize the full benefits of implementing a CMMS.”

The report specifically reviewed 61,000 work orders sent to DGS between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021. It also requested their status, from DGS, as of June 30, 2022.

More than 48,000 of those work orders were completed and/or closed. Of that group, the report determined it typically took DGS 55 days to complete a work order, in the CMMS, after it was requested.

However, the time to complete certain specific tasks was even greater than that month-and-a-half period. The report said HVAC, lighting, and structural building issues usually took more than 70 days to complete.

Meanwhile, 130 work orders, related to fire sprinklers, took an average of 142 days to complete. More than 400 work orders concerning fire alarms averaged more than 130 days to complete. The report also examined 324 orders dealing with “electronic security issues”. Those orders took an average of 172 days to complete.

DCPS made 43% of all work order requests sent to DGS during the timeframe of the report. Eight DCPS facilities are placed among the top 20 District buildings or locations with the highest number of work orders.

Mendelson sent WUSA9 a statement after reviewing the report. The DC Council Chair said it shows DGS’ maintenance efforts are “completely inefficient”.

“Work orders are key to any maintenance program,” Mendelson stated. “If DGS can’t manage its work orders then its maintenance program is going to fail. What the auditor’s report confirms is what we already know, that maintenance is completely inefficient. The mismanagement of the work orders is fundamental to that problem. What we’re also seeing is that inadequate and poor maintenance is, in the end, costing the city millions of dollars.”

The auditor’s office said it sent a copy of its report to DGS, for review and comment, on Oct. 25. ODCA said DGS did not reply with any response.

WUSA9 also reached out to DGS for comment on ODCA’s findings. It sent the following statement:

“The Department of General Services takes this work very seriously and is currently reviewing the report. DGS looks forward to submitting a thorough response to the recommendations.”

The report did make several recommendations, however.

“Auditors recommended implementation of an inventory management system integrated with the work order tracking system and 'a robust supervisory review of work orders', including an independent assessment of the accuracy and reasonableness of data entered into the DGS system,” the report reads.

Patterson said she has faith DGS will follow her office’s recommendations as they have been very cooperative in the process so far.

“If they follow through on the recommendations in this audit, then I think we'll see a much better, much more responsive workforce,” she said. “So long as the administration makes a commitment to follow these recommendations, I think we'll see better results.”

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