By Paul Emanuelli

This article is an excerpt from The Art of Tendering: A Global Due Diligence Guide, which is available for purchase.

In its January 2018 report entitled GSA Should Establish Goals and Performance Measures to Manage the Smart Buildings Program, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the federal General Services Administration (GSA) failed to establish performance benchmarks for its smart buildings initiative:

GSA does not have documented, clearly defined goals for the smart buildings program, nor has GSA developed performance measures that would allow it to assess the program’s progress. These omissions are contrary to leading practices of results-oriented organizations identified in previous GAO work. GSA officials verbally described broad goals for the smart buildings program to GAO, but the agency has not documented these goals.
Further, because GSA has not clearly defined its verbally expressed goals, it cannot demonstrate progress in achieving them. For example, GSA officials said that the agency cannot measure progress for the stated goal of improving tenant productivity and comfort because of the subjective nature of individual tenant preferences, such as for office temperatures. Additionally, GSA has not developed performance measures to assess the program, and GSA’s lack of data that can be used to quantify benefits of the program impedes its ability to measure the success of the program. Without clearly defined goals, related performance measures, and data that can be used to measure its progress, GSA is limited in its ability to make informed decisions about the smart buildings program.

As the audit noted, the failure to establish benchmarks undermined the ability to measure project success, and therefore undermined public accountability for the program. As this report illustrates, public institutions need to establish accountability controls for their portfolio areas since the failure to do so can result in adverse audit findings.