Fedweek

A report from the inspector general at GSA has questioned whether federally owned and leased buildings are being cleaned up to the standards now required due to the pandemic, while saying that agencies are not always promptly reporting infections of employees to the GSA or to other employees.

A management alert report further disclosed that since the first confirmed incident on March 9, the GSA has addressed some 3,400 incidents across 660 government-owned facilities and nearly 1,100 leased facilities.

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The report said that GSA’s Public Building Service “did not always receive timely notice of COVID-19 incidents from building occupants and did not always provide timely notification of confirmed COVID-19 cases.” Under GSA policy, reports of COVID-19 incidents must be reported within the agency and then to the GSA facility manager or the lease administration manager, but the auditors found two instances in which GSA was not notified for a week.

In turn, all occupants of a GSA-controlled facility are to be notified of COVID-19 incidents no later than 24 hours after the incident is first reported to the GSA. However, in reviewing seven incidents at GSA-owned buildings, it found that occupants were not notified until 7 days later in one case and 16 days later in another.

“It is unconscionable that more than two weeks could pass between learning of a positive coronavirus case and sharing that with building occupants,” said Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., chair of the House government management subcommittee.

“This alert memorandum demonstrates the risk of this administration’s failure to have a coherent and universal plan for reopening the federal government. This patchwork approach has resulted in a failure to clearly and quickly share positive COVID-19 cases, threatening the health and safety of federal workers, contractors, building occupants, and the public,” he said.

The report also said that because the GSA “does not have a standard inspection process for COVID-19 cleaning and disinfection services, it does not have assurance that contractors are cleaning and disinfecting space” in accordance with its own policies and those of the CDC. In its response, the GSA said it will reemphasize the reporting requirements and oversight of cleaning.

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