Report Finds AOC Slow to Make Improvements

Posted February 2, 2004 at 6:28pm

The General Accounting Office used a Jan. 30 report to characterize ongoing efforts by the Architect of the Capitol to improve its management structure and related policies as “very much a work in progress.”

The report focused on a series of 35 recommendations GAO made in an initial report on the AOC’s management structure published in January 2003.

The recommendations focused on strategic management, human resources, information technology and project management, as well as issues of worker safety and the AOC’s recycling program.

“Although we have found that AOC is addressing each of our 35 original recommendations either through its planning efforts or actions it has initiated; a great deal more needs to be done,” states the report, which was mandated by the fiscal 2003 omnibus spending bill. “Moreover, greater effort will have to be made if more timely improvements are to occur. Sustained commitment and assertive involvement on behalf of AOC leadership will be vital to ensure that it completes the many action plans and reaches its milestones during the next several years to achieve its organizational transformation.”

The Architect’s office began work on improving its management practices in the wake of criticism from several Members including Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), then-chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee on the legislative branch, who lashed out in early 2002.

“[W]e have been making steady progress in addressing the recommendations contained in the original report,” Architect Alan Hantman wrote in a Jan. 20 letter responding to a draft of the report. “We are committed to successfully bringing about the organizational transformation we jointly envision.”

Among the recommendations made in the new report, GAO suggested the Architect’s office improve communication with both employees and “Congressional stakeholders.”

That could be achieved, in part, the report states, through focus groups and surveys the Architect’s office plans to conduct with rank-and-file employees on a two-year cycle. The office plans to complete the first such employee survey by April.

According to the report, AOC officials also plan to increase publication of their employee newsletter, “Shop Talk,” and conduct employee tours of major projects, including the Capitol Visitor Center. The Architect is also considering broadcasting either videotaped or Webcast messages to employees.

The report also notes that AOC officials have begun work on improving policies governing personnel decisions.

“AOC is addressing our concerns about the lack of consistent human capital policies and procedures by drafting its absence and leave policy, providing guidelines for premium pay eligibility, and completing its policy and procedures for administering pay flexibilities,” the report states.

The GAO report, titled “Architect of the Capitol: Status Report on Implementation of Management Review Recommendations,” did praise portions of the Architect’s progress, noting in particular the creation and appointment of a chief operating officer. Richard McSeveney, a former official at Fort McNair, took over the post in July.

While the agencies generally agreed on GAO’s findings, the report notes: “There are some disagreements [on assessments] in the areas of information technology, worker safety, and recycling issues.”