Audit cites General Services’ for mishandling of D.C. building repair requests

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The D.C. agency responsible for maintenance and repairs in school buildings and other government property has “multiple failures” in the way it manages work orders, according to a report from the city’s auditor.

The report, released Monday, described the Department of General Services’ use of a management system that is supposed to help it handle service requests. But auditors said the system has “serious shortcomings” — including incomplete data on work order costs, inconsistent photo documentation of repairs, and a failure to provide requesters with an estimated completion date.

Auditors also said the agency fails to meet response times. Routine work orders must be completed within 45 days, but it takes DGS an average of 55 days to finish or close requests, according to data from more than 48,000 work orders. Sixty-two percent of work orders considered to be “high priority” were not finished within the mandatory 10 days, according to the report.

“The auditors make clear that DGS has tools it is not using,” said D.C. Auditor Kathy Patterson. “More and better supervision, ensuring independent oversight of the work, and better transparency with government clients are all recommendations the audit team makes to improve DGS’s handling of building maintenance.”

A spokeswoman for DGS did not immediately comment on the audit Monday.

The report includes data from more than 61,000 work orders requested between Jan. 1, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2021 — 43 percent of which were related to D.C. Public Schools facilities. Of 20 buildings and locations with the highest number of work orders, eight were school facilities.

Browne Education Campus, which serves prekindergarten through eighth grade in Northeast Washington, had 849 work orders over that time period — the fifth-highest number of work orders in the city. It was followed by Eastern High School, Tyler Elementary School, Columbia Heights Education Campus, LaSalle-Backus Elementary School, Roosevelt High School, Takoma Education Campus and Anacostia High School.

Most of the work requests were related to locks and doors, lighting and HVAC services, according to the report.

The auditor’s findings highlight anxieties from early this school year, when many teachers and parents complained about returning to classrooms that had doors that didn’t lock properly or faulty air-conditioning systems. By the time school started, DGS Director Keith Anderson said there were about 100 open work orders in city schools for issues such as broken water fountains, but nothing that would prevent instruction.

Amid concerns over school safety — exacerbated by the May mass killing at a school in Uvalde, Tex. — the D.C. Council in July voted to require schools to report to lawmakers the percentage of doors in each school that locked properly and the working status of every air-conditioning and heating system ahead of the school year.