GSA to centralize oversight of IT, HR after top-to-bottom review

Wednesday - 9/12/2012, 6:01am EDT

The General Services Administration is taking dramatic action to centralize and add more oversight to technology and human resources functions across the agency.

Dan Tangherlini, GSA's acting administrator, will tell the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Wednesday that his three-part, five- month review of the agency found opportunities for better performance and efficiencies, according to his testimony obtained exclusively by Federal News Radio. GSA Inspector General Brian Miller also is scheduled to testify before the Senate committee.

Tangherlini wants to consolidate all three chief information officer offices into one, and all the human resources functions into the chief people officer's offices. These reforms are what have come from the top-to-bottom review in the aftermath of the conference spending scandal.

Dan Tangherlini, acting administrator, General Services Administration

"We have proposed to change the current decentralized structure and improved CIO accountability and oversight," Tangherlini is expected to tell the committee. "Importantly, centralization of the CFO and the CIO were both crucial reforms that were recommended by the IG."

Tangherlini already announced the centralization of the CFO functions under the headquarters office, led by acting CFO Gary Grippo, and out of the regional offices. His written testimony states headquarters will be responsible for spending and budgeting decisions as well as offer another level of oversight to where and how GSA spends its money.

In addition to IT and budgeting, Tangherlini is putting all the hiring decisions in the Chief People Officer Office, led by Tony Costa.

"Consolidation of hiring responsibilities will increase visibility into hiring decisions and increase efficiencies by eliminating current redundancy within the various organizations within GSA," Tangherlini's testimony states. "We have also focused on the current implementation of the telework policy, and the strength of the business cases to support virtual employees. I have strengthened our telework policy to ensure the program's cost-effectiveness and to make certain that there is a strong business case for employees who work from home full time."

Tangherlini said "shortly he will notify Congress" of these changes.

In addition to administrative changes, GSA's Federal Acquisition Service will consider how best to lower its fees.

Tangherlini will tell senators that GSA is "convening an interagency working group to review and develop recommendations on the overall fee structure for the schedules program."

Post-scandal fallout

These changes are the latest of several that emerged after GSA's Inspector General detailed Public Building Service's Western Regions conference excesses in April. The scandal led to the resignation of GSA Administrator Martha Johnson and the firing of PBS Commissioner Bob Peck and senior advisor Stephen Leeds.

Along with the consolidation of the CFO, CIO and CPO offices, Tangherlini gave oversight of all agency conference spending to the chief administrative officer's office, led by Cynthia Metzler. He also froze hiring, cut back travel and cancelled 47 conferences.

GSA said earlier this month it saved $11 million from these changes. The agency also said it will save another $5.5 million from reducing subscriptions to print publications, moving to the Web a paper-based survey for GSA Public Buildings Service tenants and several other initiatives.

"As we plan for fiscal year 2014 and beyond, we will be using the data from the Top-to-Bottom Review to identify additional reforms that will provide increased transparency into the agency's operations, reduce costs, and increase efficiency," Tangherlini's testimony states. "

In the long term, Tangherlini said GSA will focus on:

  • Increasing its ability to achieve savings for the federal agencies that it serves;

  • Simplifying and streamlining the delivery of core services;

  • Ensuring consistency in how GSA operates across the country;

  • Establishing clear lines of authority, and

  • Making the most of the talent at GSA.

He said GSA will develop the specifics of these long-term reforms in the coming months, but all should be based on three principles.

Tangherlini said GSA needs to better serve its customers by removing organizational barriers and applying the best people and resources from anywhere within the agency to meet those needs.

He said the second principle focuses on reducing administrative costs throughout the 11 regions.

"The resources currently allocated to potentially redundant activities could be captured as savings or, where appropriate, invested in improving service to agencies and performance outcomes," he states.

The final principle is using data to improve the performance of agencies. Tangherlini said GSA will use data to save money, make performance evaluations more transparent to employees and yield better outcomes for the government.

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