Robert White
**FILE** D.C. Council Robert White (WI photo)

In the aftermath of a D.C. Auditor’s report that highlights the Department of General Services (DGS)’ mismanagement of work orders, D.C. Council member Robert White (D-At large) vehemently criticized the agency and revealed plans to host another D.C. Council public roundtable about DGS operations. 

White, chair of the council committee that oversees DGS, has also called on D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) to shape a fiscal year 2024 budget proposal that incorporates suggestions from the Office of the D.C. Auditor (ODCA) to strengthen DGS’ coordination of preventative maintenance. 

On Nov. 28, ODCA released a report showing how DGS fell short in using a computerized system designed to manage work orders across the District. The report also said, without proper preventative maintenance measures, the warranty on newly installed equipment in numerous District facilities could expire.

According to the report, DGS failed to provide documentation and maintain transparency with those who requested repairs at numerous facilities. In 17 out of 25 sampled works orders, contractors failed to provide an estimated completion date. Work orders often went unaddressed well beyond the mandatory 10-day period. 

Common repair tickets involved malfunctioning doors and locks, electrical issues, and HVAC services. 

In many instances, contractors either didn’t include photographs or uploaded stock photos from the internet in place of images from the D.C. site. 

District public school buildings accounted for more than 40% of more than 48,000 work orders documented during the timeframe examined by ODCA. The report also said eight school buildings counted among 20 facilities with the highest number of work orders. 

In April, the D.C. Council requested that ODCA analyze the processes that DGS uses to address the maintenance needs of District public schools. The subsequent release of this report comes weeks after teachers and community members hosted a “Day of Action” that highlighted maintenance issues at several District public schools. 

Parents at Whittier Elementary School in Northwest and Langley Education Campus in Northeast, among other schools, spoke about broken HVAC systems, leaky toilets and broken door handles that DGS had failed to address upon request. 

Their complaints mirrored that of others made by teachers and parents in other parts of the District. Over the last few months, White facilitated the creation of the first-ever public-facing online dashboard that provided transparency about repair times. He also noted that, through his oversight of the D.C. Council Committee on Government Operations and Facilities, DGS was able to prepare for students’ return to school earlier this year. 

Even so, District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) Chancellor Lewis Ferebee and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) reported that DGS still had dozens of work orders to fulfill on the first day of school. This past summer, recreation centers, including Emery Heights Recreation Center, faced similar issues with delays in repairs to its HVAC system during the summer. 

That’s why, as all eyes fall on DGS once again, White continues to demand a culture change within the 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,” White said. 

“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,” he continued. 

“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.”

Sam P.K. Collins

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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