Facility Planning Bureau Project Review (Follow-Up)

Issued Date
January 05, 2022
Agency/Authority
State Education Department

Objective

To determine the extent of implementation of the three recommendations included in our initial audit report, Facility Planning Bureau Project Review (2018-S-2).

About the Program

The State Education Department (Department) is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the New York State Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code (Code) for all district construction projects, exclusive of New York City. The Code applies to every facility owned or operated by school districts or Boards of Cooperative Educational Services (collectively referred to in this report as Districts). These facilities include, but are not limited to, school and administration buildings, bus/maintenance garages, public school libraries, storage buildings/sheds, press boxes, and concession stands. The Department ensures all planned projects comply with the Code and the Commissioner of Education’s Regulations by reviewing and approving plans and specifications for all capital construction projects involving these facilities, based on procedures established by the Department’s Facilities Planning Bureau (Bureau), and, upon completion of review, issues building permits. Per the State Education Law, Districts must obtain final approval from the Department for a project before commencing construction.

Our initial audit report, covering the period July 1, 2013 to October 18, 2018, was issued on February 4, 2019. The audit sought to determine if the Bureau completed its review of projects in a timely manner and, if not, what the impacts on school districts were. We also sought to determine whether Districts were commencing project construction prior to obtaining final project approval. The audit found that the Bureau did not perform project plan reviews timely, as it took the Bureau 6 months or longer to finalize its approval for 2,764 (43.8%) of the 6,315 projects analyzed. The Bureau also lacked guidelines that define a reasonable time period to review a project. Further, as of August 2018, the Bureau estimated a lag time to begin its architectural and engineering reviews as 24 weeks and 3840 weeks, respectively.

The audit also found that the Bureau did not monitor project construction (e.g., conduct site visits), including whether Districts began construction before receiving final approval from the Department. In addition, the audit found that the systems the Bureau uses to capture and monitor project status are antiquated and are not designed to allow staff to perform data analyses of projects, limiting the Bureau’s ability to monitor and improve its oversight performance.  

Key Finding

The Department has made progress in addressing the problems we identified in the initial audit report. However, additional improvements are still needed. Of the initial report’s three audit recommendations, one was implemented and two were partially implemented.

Key Recommendation

Officials are given 30 days after the issuance of this follow-up to provide information on any actions that are planned to address the unresolved issues discussed in this report.

 

Brian Reilly

State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Brian Reilly
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: [email protected]
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236