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MANAGEMENT UPDATE.

HOW CAN CITIES REDUCE INFRASTRUCTURE DELAYS?

Between 2019 and 2023, more than 700 projects from Kansas City, Missouri, received funding that totaled $119.5 million. Improvements included park facilities, sports fields, street lighting, stormwater drainage, and street repairs. Many of these projects had great appeal to voters, who were willing, in 2018, to approve a 1% sales tax to fund capital improvements for public needs.


Sadly, according to an April audit, of 707 initial projects under the auspices of the city’s Public Infrastructure Advisory Committee (PIAC), 15% were cancelled or are otherwise inactive and 43% have not met timeline estimates. So far, just 36% were completed on time.


This is not an unusual story. Common challenges in many places to finishing projects on time and on budget include unrealistic and overly optimistic initial project estimates; staff turnover; unpredictable events, rising costs, technological snafus, contract disputes, revenue downturns and a host of other economic, political or budgetary issues that can derail project timetables.

The audit delves deeply into the reasons Kansas City missed timelines and its findings can be useful to other cities, as well.



Citing advice from the Government Finance Officers Association, it notes that while most departments provided estimated timelines, they fall short of establishing goals or active performance measurement systems that would lead to tracking and adhering to desired completion dates. Timelines have been imprecise, as well, with estimates for similar project phases sometimes differing a large amount from one department to another. 


The audit recommends that attention to data entry and accuracy needs improvement. It notes that without sufficient training, completion dates and project status are sometimes unreliable, with data incorrectly entered in the management software system that the city uses. Data that should be entered in a numerical field, for example, is sometimes mistakenly put in spots designed for text, limiting easy tracking. As auditors observe, a project management software system, “is only useful when users are trained and directed to use its full capacity.” 


A lack of updated or inaccurate information means that the city council can’t rely on accurate information. For example, one project – new Pickle Ball courts – was listed in the software as having a start date and end date only one day apart. Absent expected intervention from Superman, clearly someone wasn’t paying attention here.


In other cases, financial information contained in the project management software was not communicated to the city’s financial system; with no automatic syncing or integration of data, a review of seven sample projects showed six that did not match.


Since many of the projects are designed for public use, one key recommendation of the audit is better communication of project status to the public. The audit notes that quarterly reports prepared by staff are not publicly available, and that residents do not have easy access to project information. This is particularly a problem with the nearly 30% that are funded outside the budget process through council member contingency funds.


According to the audit, “Establishing effective communication is important for the city’s PIAC program success. It helps the public know their project is moving forward or if not, why not.” 


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MANAGEMENT UPDATE ARCHIVES.

UNCOVERING STUDIES IN THE NEWS

THE ACADEMIC GOVERNMENT COMMUNICATIONS GAP

USING GENERATIVE AI FOR PUBLIC SAFETY

ADVOCATING FOR CITY MANAGERS: A NEW ORGANIZATION

PEWS FISCAL 50 HAS BEEN SUPERCHARGED

EQUALIZING THE PROCUREMENT PLAYING FIELD

HEAT KILLS SHOULDNT WE PAY MORE ATTENTION

REINVIGORATING PUBLIC SERVICE

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