Incompetence at the GSA costing US billions
A prime example of how slowly the federal government moves is a piece of prime real estate in Washington's tony Georgetown neighborhood -- an old steam-generating plant with a spectacular view of the Potomac waterfront.Here is how to get a precise inventory. Require each federal agency to make a search of properties they control and provide a list to the Congress within the next 30 days. Congress also needs to change the way these properties can be liquidated. Currently they have to go through a long list of options before they can finally offer it for sale. Instead they should tell those on the option list that the property will be offered for sale at the end of a 30 day period unless they present a proposal for use that make sense.
The government-owned building was finally sold to a private developer for $19.5 million this month. But it sat there for 10 years -- off the market and vacant -- while taxpayers footed the bill for its upkeep.
A for-sale sign only went up the day before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform dragged General Services Administration officials into the musty structure for a hearing last summer. Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., berated a bewildered GSA official at that hearing, saying: "You can't get your job done! I don't care if it's a Republican or Democratic administration, the job is not getting done!"
Congressional frustration may be warranted. The federal government owns or leases between 55,000 and 77,000 vacant properties. But it's impossible to tell exactly how many. No precise inventory has been kept.
Selling them off, though, could save taxpayers between $3 billion and $8 billion a year, according to various analysts. That's nothing to scoff at as the government grapples with a mounting debt and sequester-tied spending cuts.