Kennedy Center:

Improvements Needed to Strengthen the Construction Process

GAO-03-1141T: Published: Sep 10, 2003. Publicly Released: Sep 10, 2003.

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In the mid-1990s, John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Kennedy Center) officials recognized a need for additional parking and better site access. As a precursor to a planned project to construct an 8-acre plaza and two additional buildings at the site, the Kennedy Center is currently in the process of constructing a garage expansion and site improvement project. Because of congressional concerns over project delays and costs as well as challenges the Kennedy Center faces as it pursues this major construction effort, GAO was requested to examine (1) the garage expansion and site improvement project's current costs, time frames, and scope compared to estimates provided to congressional stakeholders in 1997 and 1998 and (2) challenges the Kennedy Center faces in managing large construction projects. GAO issued its findings in a report entitled Kennedy Center: Improvements Needed to Strengthen the Management and Oversight of the Construction Process, GAO-03-823 (Sept. 5, 2003). This testimony is based on that report.

As of July 2003, Kennedy Center officials estimated that the garage expansion and site improvement project would cost $88 million, the garage expansion would be completed in December 2003, the site improvements would be completed in summer 2004, and the project would include 525 parking spaces and various traffic flow improvements. These estimates vary substantially from estimates that Kennedy Center officials provided to congressional stakeholders in 1997 and 1998. At that time, Kennedy Center officials estimated that the project would cost $28 million, would be completed by August 2000, and would include between 900 and 1,000 parking spaces. According to Kennedy Center officials, the initial estimates were preliminary in nature and were based on some unrealistic assumptions. They acknowledged that they should have done a better job of informing Congress of the preliminary nature of the estimates and the subsequent events in the project's planning and bidding phases that affected the costs, time frames, and scope. Kennedy Center officials said they now hold monthly meetings with Congress about the status of ongoing projects. The Kennedy Center faces certain challenges in managing large construction projects. Specifically, the Kennedy Center lacks (1) adequate policies and procedures to guide the planning and management of the construction process, (2) some timely construction data on schedules and costs for effectively overseeing construction projects and measuring results, and (3) key human capital resources and expertise that would be useful in managing the construction process. In its September 2003 report, GAO recommended that the Kennedy Center develop comprehensive project management policies and procedures, ensure development and use of timely data, and ensure that the needs for human capital expertise are met. Kennedy Center officials are now working to address these challenges.

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