District of Columbia: D.C. Public Schools Inappropriately Used Gas Utility Contract for Renovations

GAO-01-963 Published: Sep 28, 2001. Publicly Released: Sep 28, 2001.
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Highlights

By the mid 1990s, most of the District of Columbia's public schools were more than 50 years old and in poor condition. Deferred maintenance had led to a host of safety problems, from fire code violations to leaky roofs. GAO found that the D.C. school system mismanaged a contract with the Washington Gas Light Company. GAO found the use of the gas contract to obtain school renovation services, including painting, carpeting, plumbing, and electrical work, was outside the scope of the contract. In addition, in carrying out the renovation work, the D.C. school system failed to adhere to controls and procedures intended to (1) ensure that the District obtained the best price and services and (2) maintain a proper relationship between the contractors and the D.C. government. These problems raise serious doubts about whether the District obtained fair and reasonable prices on the renovations and whether the school system should continue the gas utility contract.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Public Schools The Superintendent of the District of Columbia School system should ensure that the school system's planned corrective actions are implemented in a timely manner.
Closed – Implemented
During the course of GAO's review, the school system began to take actions concerning the Washington Gas contract. The school system hired a law firm to explore possible legal recourse against Washington Gas. In the meantime, Washington Gas credited the school system $1.2 million.
Public Schools The Superintendent should ensure that the contracting officer complies with the District of Columbia procurement procedures in contracting for the remaining school renovation work, including procurement planning, use of competitive acquisition procedures, and ensuring that contractor prices and fees are fair and reasonable.
Closed – Not Implemented
In order to determine whether this recommendation has been adequately implemented, GAO would have to undertake an in-depth review; the issues are complex and many key players have left the DC public schools.
Public Schools Specifically, regarding the Washington Gas contract, the Superintendent should direct the contracting officer to terminate, if cost-beneficial, outstanding orders that are beyond the scope of the contract and properly procure the replacement work through available government sources or competitive procedures.
Closed – Implemented
The Superintendent has directed the facilities and contracting staff not to award any further work to Washington Gas. An accomplishment report will be prepared.
Public Schools The school system's Chief Financial Officer should take a more active role in the contract review process. Because this official is concerned with ensuring the District's financial health, the official should notify appropriate authorities about irregular contracting activities that may be taking place.
Closed – Not Implemented
GAO was not able to obtain adequate evidence from the school system that the Chief Financial Officer is taking a more active role. In order to determine whether this recommendation has been adequately implemented, GAO would have to undertake an in-depth review; the issues are complex and many key players have left the DC public schools.

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