Federal Real Property:

Better Governmentwide Data Needed for Strategic Decisionmaking

GAO-02-342: Published: Apr 16, 2002. Publicly Released: Apr 18, 2002.

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For 50 years, the General Services Administration (GSA) has maintained the federal government's real property assets, including military installations, office buildings, laboratories, courthouses, postal facilities, and embassies. Separately, the Department of the Treasury produces annual financial information on these assets. GSA's worldwide inventory is the only central source of detailed information on on the government's real property inventory, such as addresses, square footage, acquisition dates, and property type. GAO found that GSA's inventory contains unreliable data. The inventory lacks key data for budgeting and strategic management, such as space utilization, facility condition, historical significance, security, and facility age. Poor communication between GSA and the reporting agencies, technical difficulties with agency data, and resource constraints contributed to the problems. GSA lacks the authority to require agencies to submit data and has been pursuing real property reform legislation. The agency has also begun to improve the effectiveness of the worldwide inventory as a decisionmaking tool. With OMB's concurrence, GSA suspended the reporting process for fiscal year 2001 and plans to develop an enhanced database with real-time capabilities to complement the yearly inventory reports.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Congress did not enact reform legislation that would have required the inventory. Nonetheless, executive order 13327 calls for such an inventory and GSA is in the process of implementing it.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider enacting legislation requiring GSA to maintain an accurate and up-to-date governmentwide inventory of real property assets and requiring real property-holding agencies to submit reliable data on their real property assets to GSA.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Executive Order 13327 calls for the development of a real property inventory.

    Recommendation: The administrator of GSA should exercise strong leadership and work with Congress, OMB, Treasury, and real property-holding agencies to design a cost-effective strategy for developing and implementing a reliable, timely, and useful governmentwide real property database. At a minimum, the strategy should address interagency communication; technical capability to provide the common data needed to make the worldwide inventory an effective and valued resource; resource issues; and data validation procedures, including steps to be taken to implement the part of GSA's revised worldwide inventory guidance that calls for agencies to report reliable cost data that originate from the same accounting records used to support agencies' financial statements.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Executive Order 13327 called for the development of a real property inventory and significant progress has been made, in line with this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To better ensure the success of this initiative, GSA should: (1) work closely with participating real property-holding agencies to clearly identify expectations and the process that will be used for improving the worldwide inventory; (2) establish results-oriented goals and targets so that progress and performance can be measured; and (3) provide Congress, OMB, Treasury, and real property-holding agencies with a detailed action plan that lays out the major tasks to be accomplished with time frames, estimated costs, and related goals and targets to measure results.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

 

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