Date: June 11, 1998
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
WASHINGTON, D.C. --
Congressman Eni F.H. Faleomavaega, Ranking Democratic Member of the House Subcommittee on National Parks and Public Lands, today made public a General Accounting Office (GAO) report that raises serious questions on the National Park Service (NPS) estimates of its maintenance backlog.
The GAO report, done at the request of Congressman Faleomavaega, found that the NPS estimate of its maintenance backlog was inaccurate and out-of-date. The report notes that the agency's estimates are compiled on an ad hoc basis and that the agency does not have a routine, systematic process for determining its maintenance backlog. This fact, as well as a lack of a common definition of what should be included in the backlog contributed to an inaccurate and out-of-date estimate.
"I asked the GAO to look into the NPS maintenance backlog because the numbers being given to Congress and the public, and widely reported in the press, have been dramatically increasing without an adequate explanation of what was included in the reported backlog," Faleomavaega stated.
The GAO report noted that the maintenance backlog has more than tripled in the past ten years-from $1.9 billion in 1987 to about $6.1 billion in 1997. The GAO found that the composition of the maintenance backlog estimate provided by the NPS includes activities that go beyond what could be considered maintenance. In fact, $1.2 billion of the estimate involves construction of new facilities.
In addition to new construction, the GAO found that the estimates included routine park-based maintenance, natural and cultural resource management, and land acquisition activities. The net result the GAO stated is that the estimate is not a reliable measure of the maintenance needs of the national park system.
"I am troubled by the fact that the NPS cannot provide Congress and the public with an accurate assessment of its maintenance needs," Faleomavaega declared.
The GAO report notes that the NPS cannot determine whether maintenance conditions of park facilities are improving or worsening. It further added that without accurate information on the total maintenance backlog, it is difficult to measure what progress is being made with available resources.
In order to begin addressing the maintenance backlog, the GAO stated that the NPS needs (1) an accurate estimate of its total maintenance backlog and (2) a means for tracking progress so it can determine the extent to which its needs are being met. The GAO noted that several new requirements and initiatives should help address problems, but Faleomavaega added his concern with the uncoordinated nature of these approaches. "There is no single effective means by which the NPS is addressing its maintenance backlog. I intend to draft legislation, in consultation with the NPS and other interested parties to see that not only do we have an accurate estimate of maintenance needs but that the information is used in addressing those needs."