The General Services Administration's Cleaning Program

Gao ID: 116831 November 4, 1981

Comments were presented on the General Services Administration's (GSA) cleaning program. Currently, GSA has three modes of accomplishing its task for cleaning general purpose Government-owned and leased buildings: (1) in-house employees, (2) contracting out, and (3) having owners of Government-leased space provide the cleaning. In its review, GAO compared the cost and productivity of cleaning done by all three methods for a sample of office buildings in four GSA regions. The comparison of fiscal 1980 cleaning costs in the four regions showed that, overall, GSA was paying over 50 percent more to clean office space with its own staff than with contractors, and almost twice what its landlords paid to clean leased Federal space. GAO believes that the two major reasons for the extreme differences in cleaning costs are wages and productivity. Regarding wages, little or no cost savings can be realized since the Office of Personnel sets wages for GSA custodians, and the Department of Labor sets the wages paid by contractors. Therefore, GAO concentrated its review on the other major cause of the wide range in cleaning costs, the varying productivity performance achieved by the three cleaning modes. According to production rates, the agency's in-house staff cleaned fewer square feet per staff hour than either its contract cleaners or custodial firms cleaning for its landlords. In addition, although GSA did not have good comparable data on cleaning quality, agency officials acknowledged that most custodial contractors clean as well as or better than the in-house staff. GAO believes that an important causal factor contributing to the GSA low productivity is its failure to maintain up-to-date staffing standards based on the latest technology in cleaning methods, supplies, and equipment. Further, GAO estimates that GSA could have saved approximately $16 million during 1980 if it had contracted for cleaning being done by its own custodians. Thus, given the magnitude of the costs involved in the cleaning area, GSA should: complete a cost comparison required by Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-76, explore a streamlined approach in applying OMB Circular A-76 to cleaning, use renewal options in contracts, allow large contractors to bid on some cleaning contracts, and require that cleaning contracts with disadvantaged businesses be obtained at a cost reasonably close to that of competitively bid contracts.

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