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Deficiencies Found in Georgia Prison Maintenance Program

At the request of Georgia’s House Appropriations Committee, state auditors investigated the Georgia Department of Corrections’ (GDC) use of its $39.1 million maintenance budget. The report found that many of the GDC’s 29 prisons use outdated software and inconsistent work order classification, and failed to maintain necessary data.

GDC prisons range from 8 to 86 years old; the average age of all buildings is 25.7 years. The department employs around 280 maintenance staff, and each prison’s staff ranges from one to 19, depending on its size.

The auditors found significant data quality issues with the information reported from six sample prisons. They found inconsistencies in the number and classification of work orders; some prisons, for example, count the completion of preventative maintenance on ten kitchen ovens as a single event while others count it as ten work orders. Also, “some prisons classify daily inspections of mechanical rooms as preventative maintenance while others consider these as miscellaneous corrective tasks.”

The Monthly Maintenance Reports (MMRs) varied across different facilities, leading to the capture of different information. A system-wide problem is GDC’s lack of a centralized data management tool to track work orders, which leaves several systems across the state. These failures reflect the “members of GDC management not reaching agreement on the information that should be collected.”

Additional information is needed to better manage GDC’s maintenance operations, the auditors concluded. The tracking of the numbers of work orders and spending per asset, building or trade will better allow monitoring of resources. The status and timeliness in acting on work orders would allow assessment of staff, inmate, and contractor performance. Measures to track contractor use, preventative maintenance to corrective maintenance work, maintenance expenditure, and the amount of deferred maintenance would help assess the use of state resources in prison upkeep.

GDC could improve its preventative maintenance program, the auditor said. Mainly, this concerned the need “to maintain equipment and maintaining an accurate account of parts and supplies.”

Cost per square foot is the standard in assessing maintenance performance. The median cost per square foot for GDC prisons was $2.20, with 20 prisons within 20% of that amount. Four prisons were 20% higher than the median and five were 20% lower.

Unique maintenance responsibilities such as water treatment plants, maintaining farms, or prison industrial plants affected the results for some prisons. A prison’s security level also had an impact, “with a close security designation disproportionately represented in the higher cost facilities.”

The GDC mostly agreed with the auditor’s findings. “As you correctly pointed out, our MMR clearly have room for improvement in both accuracy and the types of maintenance data collected at the agency-level, but to our knowledge we are the only department to attempt this level of analysis,” GDC wrote in response to the report.

The auditors noted that no single measure can be used to evaluate a maintenance program, for lower costs may reflect inadequate maintenance that will lead to higher future costs.

Source: “Maintenance of State Prisons,” Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts. Performance Audit Operations (Feb. 2012).

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