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ASBESTOS ABATEMENT Mr. PACKARD. You brought up asbestos abatement. How have you progressed on that and where are we in this process and what is planned for this budget?
Mr. BOWSHER. We are making good progress. As you may remember, we didn't make a lot of progress when GSA controlled the building. But we are now getting one floor done every year.
Mr. PACKARD. How many floors are done?
Mr. BOWSHER. We will have four floors done at the end of this year. We will have the fifth floor done in the next year. And that leaves us with two floors to do.
Mr. PACKARD. This budget reflects the fifth floor then?
Mr. BOWSHER. Yes. The third and fifth floors are reflected in the request.
Mr. PACKARD. And has that been going satisfactorily?
Mr. BOWSHER. Going quite well. The Corps of Engineers is our general contractor. We finally got the right general contractor, and it is the same firm that does the Pentagon, which has the same problem because it was built by the same builder, unfortunately.
Mr. PACKARD. So in the next two years, beyond 1997, we will expect about the same amount for an additional floor each year?
Mr. BROWN. Actually the cost will decrease as we get closer to the end of the project. We estimate that in 1998, the cost will be about $9 million.
Mr. PACKARD. And this year it is how much.
Mr. BROWN. This year for 1997 we are estimating about 13 million.
Mr. PACKARD. I see.
Mr. BOWSHER. And we are saving rent; every time we can finish a floor, we bring people out of leased space.
Mr. PACKARD. They are not in leased space?
Mr. BOWSHER. When we bring them in, we save millions of dollars of leased-space money.
Mr. PACKARD. If there are any questions as we proceed, by other Members of the committee
Mr. THORNTON. Mr. Chairman, this question is probably not one that fits your agency's expertise, but has anyone studied what the hazard is of undisturbed asbestos?
Mr. BOWSHER. Yes, other people have studied that. Our building, unfortunately, had ductwork made of asbestos (and that is the situation also at the Pentagon) so we didn't have a choice except to remove the asbestos. I think, that those who studied this issue have concluded that in some buildings, not disburbing the asbestos is safer than removing it.
They also say that some ceilings containing asbestos can be painted and painting contains the asbestos. But our problem was that asbestos was in the ductwork.
Mr. THORNTON. I apologize for the interruption.
Mr. PACKARD. It is a good question because the cost-benefit ratio—you wonder if it really is worthwhile to do. But I guess we have to go by the experts and by the law.
(A question from Chairman Packard, and response, follow:]
Question. For the record, give us the timeline and associated costs for completing the asbestos abatement and building renovation project.
Response. The current plan calls for completion of asbestos removal and renovation by the summer of 2001. Under this plan, GAO has committed $111.1 million to date for the design, demolition, and asbestos abatement, and construction of the first, second, fourth, fifth, and seventh floors; asbestos removal from mechanical areas and upgrading of mechanical systems and telecommunications cable systems. GAO needs $42.2 million to complete work on the third, fifth and sixth floors, and for mechanical systems which support the occupancy of these floors.
TRANSFER OF CLAIMS AND JUDGMENT FUNCTIONS Last year in our bill we prospectively transferred the claims and judgments to the executive branch. What is the progress on that and are you working with OMB?
Mr. BOWSHER. We are.
Mr. HINCHMAN. We have established a working group with OMB. We have met a number of times. We have now submitted a formal proposal to OMB that includes the transfer of approximately 40 people and associated salaries, equipment, and records. We expect to hear back from OMB shortly. I expect the transfer will be completed by the June deadline, which the committee set.
I think the principal stumbling block at the moment is that OMB is trying to work out within the executive branch where these responsibilities are going to go. And OMB needs to get that settled so that we will know where to transfer these individuals and the associated materials and responsibilities.
But as I said, I think we are on target. And I think we will get that accomplished by the deadline.
BID PROTEST FUNCTION Mr. PACKARD. Very good. Give us an update on the bid protest that took place in the transfer.
Mr. HINCHMAN. As you have pointed out, the defense authorization bill for this year abolishes the bid protest jurisdiction of the GSA Board of Contract Appeals and transfers that to GAO, in effect consolidating all of those responsibilities in GAO. We are taking steps now to implement that responsibility. We just published in the Federal Register the initial notice of solicitation of ideas in connection with the rulemaking that will be necessary for that.
I have also begun meeting with the staff, and our General Counsel's office has talked about how we are going to handle this responsibility administratively. I think our basic operating premise is that we are going to have to carry out this additional responsibility, using the resources that we now have, and that there may not be any additional resources for this responsibility because of the overall constraints that the agency is operating under. We are going to have to look for efficiencies in how we do that work that would allow us to do that.
As you may know, the legislation also shortened the time frame for resolving protests, and that only increases the pressure on us to find efficiencies. But I feel confident that we will be able to do that.
Mr. PACKARD. Very good. Before I became Chairman, the fiscal year 1994 the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act included a two-year requirement of achieving 4 percent reduction in FTESthis is overall for the legislative branch-and certain administrative savings through the legislative branch, which included the Congress. We asked GAO at the time to collect reports on these savings from each agency and to provide an overall report to the Congress on compliance with these statutory reductions.
On December of 1995, you gave us that report. Would you give us a brief summary of it and also indicate if we have agencies that are not in compliance that request.
Mr. HINCHMAN. I think the basic summary of that report is very good news. As you point out, we reported to Chairman Livingston, to Chairman Hatfield, and to the Ranking Minority Members on the reports we received that all agencies had certified compliance with both the 4-percent FTE reduction requirement and the 6-percent administrative cost reduction requirement. So the legislative branch agencies are on track to carry out that mandate.
Mr. PACKARD. Our House leadership, of course, brought about a significant reduction in FTEs in the House itself, which probably exceeded the goal.
Mr. HINCHMAN. Yes, sir, I think the total for the House was 12 percent.
Mr. PACKARD. I think that is true for the Senate as well. What overall level are we at now? Do you have a figure?
Mr. HINCHMAN. I would have to supply that for the Record. I don't have it at this time.
Mr. PACKARD. That would be fine. [The information follows:]
The Chairman requested GAO to provide the current level of staffing reduction in the Legislative Branch that has taken place since fiscal year 1992. In submitting its December 1995 compliance report to the Appropriations Committees, GAO did not develop or include any overall data since that had not been requested by the Congress.
In order to comply with the Chairman's request for the most current information, GAO consulted data in Employment and Trends, which is published bi-monthly by the Office of Personnel Management. Employment and Trends presents employment information on the federal civilian workforce based on reports submitted by each department and agency. Comparing data on total employment and full-time employment with permanent appointments in Table 7 of the November 1992 and 1995 reports, Legislative Branch employment has dropped 14.6 percent from 38,356 in October 1992 to 32,753 in November 1995, the latest month for which data is available. This reduction is 265 percent greater than the goal of a 4 percent reduction set by the Committee.
(A question from Chairman Packard and response follow:] Question. In the FY 1994 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, we enacted a two-year program for achieving a 4% reduction in FTES and certain administrative savings throughout the Legislative Branch, including the Congress. We asked the GAO to collect the reports on these savings from each agency, and to provide an overall report to the Congress on compliance with these statutory reductions. For the record, please insert the subject report.
Response. See attached report.
Comptroller General of the United States
Washington, D.C. 20548
December 15, 1995
The Honorable Mark O. Hatfield
The Honorable Bob Livingston
This is the second report required by sections 307 and 308 of the 1994 Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, P.L. 103-69, as amended by P.L. 103-283. Section 307 requires each legislative branch entity to reduce positions by 4 percent on a
4 full-time equivalent (FTE) basis by September 30, 1995. Section 308 requires each entity to achieve a reduction in administrative expenses of at least 3 percent annually in fiscal years 1994, 1995, and 1996, as well as a cumulative 14-percent reduction by fiscal year 1997.
Entities are to report annually on their compliance with these provisions to the Comptroller General who, in turn, is to compile the compliance information and submit a compliance report to the Committees on Appropriations. The entities have submitted their 1995 reports, and all have certified compliance with sections 307 and 308. Their reports are enclosed.
GAO/GGD-96-57R Legislative Branch Reductions B-259610
Compliance information is also enclosed for the General Accounting Office, and I cenify that the General Accounting Office has achieved the FTE and administrative expense reductions required by sections 307 and 308.
Charles A. Bourler
Charles A. Bowsher Comptroller General of the United States
Enclosures - 9
GAONGGD-96-5TR Legislative Branch Reductions