The 23 findings set forth in the preceding pages are specific to the Pollard School project, its participants, and its circumstances. Taken as a whole, however, the findings offer some lessons for effective management of municipal construction projects.
Like many Massachusetts municipalities, Needham assembled a committee of school officials and community volunteers for the purpose of overseeing the Pollard School project. The extensive time devoted to the project by the Building Committee members attests to the effort and commitment of this unpaid group. Nevertheless, the findings in this report suggest that a municipality embarking on a complex, multimillion-dollar municipal construction or renovation project has a responsibility to invest in full-time, professional project management in order to safeguard the project from excess costs, schedule delays, and design and construction problems.
In the absence of a project manager, the Building Committee relied on the project designer for policy guidance and contractor oversight as well as design expertise. The designer did not effectively manage and control the project on behalf of the town. As this case illustrates, overreliance on any private consultant or vendor is risky and can be imprudent.
The risks were compounded by procedural lapses within the Needham School Department. Without effective contracting, fiscal control, and record-keeping procedures, a municipality is vulnerable to fraud, waste, and abuse on any contract.
In the current economic and political climate, persuading taxpayers to fund extra project management staff or consultants can be difficult. The problems encountered on the Pollard School project illustrate some of the risks of devoting inadequate resources to project management and oversight functions.
The Inspector General recommends that the town of Needham implement the following management safeguards for future construction and renovation projects:
- Assign a project manager to oversee the project from the feasibility study phase through construction completion.
- Hire or contract with an experienced clerk of the works or resident engineer.
- Hire or contract with a construction manager for large or complex projects.
- Advertise for bids on a complete design that includes all work that can reasonably be anticipated.
- Execute contract amendments to reflect any and all changes in the scope, cost, or schedule of project-related contracts.
- Create budgetary accounts to facilitate contract monitoring and fiscal control.
- Ensure that town procurements are legal and competitive.
- Maintain complete, accurate project records in a central location within the town offices.