The White House:

Allegations of Damage During the 2001 Presidential Transition

GAO-02-360: Published: Jun 7, 2002. Publicly Released: Jun 11, 2002.

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Damage, theft, vandalism, and pranks occurred in the White House complex during the 2001 presidential transition. Several Executive Office of the President (EOP) staff claim that they observed (1) messy offices containing excessive trash or personal items, (2) numerous prank signs containing derogatory and offensive statements about the president, (3) government property that was damaged, and (4) missing items. Further, EOP staff believed that what they observed during the transition was done intentionally. Some former Clinton administration staff acknowledged that they observed some damaged items and prank signs. However, the former Clinton administration staff said that (1) the amount of trash found during the transition was what could be expected; (2) they did not take the missing items; (3) some furniture was unintentionally broken before the transition, and little money was spent on repairs and upkeep during the administration; and (4) many of the reported observations were not of vandalism. This report makes several recommendations regarding the prevention and documentation of vandalism during future presidential transitions.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Management and Administration for the White House Office and the General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator should provide clear instructions to staff about what condition the office space and equipment should be left in, how office supplies should be handled, and the penalties for damaging and vandalizing government property.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA reported on August 29, 2002 that it is working with the White House Office of Management and Administration on an employee check-out sheet for departing EOP staff. GSA's portion of the checklist, which it had completed, contains instructions about the condition in which office space should be maintained and the liability for damage.

    Recommendation: Steps should be taken to help (1) prevent and document damage that results in repair or replacement costs during presidential transitions; (2) ensure that the space is ready for occupancy; and (3) avoid potential future costs associated with investigating allegations of damage, vandalism, and pranks. The Director of the Office of Management and Administration for the White House Office and the General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator should work together to (1) revise the employee check-out process to require a cost-effective inspection of office space, furniture, and equipment by the EOP and GSA within their respective areas of responsibility and to document any damage observed, and (2) explore what additional steps could be taken to ensure that the EOP office space is immediately cleaned and prepared for an incoming administration, including communicating with both outgoing and incoming administrations concerning the timetable and procedures for transition.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of the Assistant to the President for Management and Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA reported on August 29, 2002, that it is working with the White House Office of Management and Administration on an employee check-out sheet for departing EOP staff. GSA's portion of the check-out form, which it has completed, includes a "Checklist for Evaluating Office Condition," which will be completed prior to the arrival and departure of all EOP employees, and maintained as part of GSA's records. Furthermore, GSA has developed a plan to prevent the accumulation of trash in EOP office space (see accomplishment report no. GAO-03-349A).

    Recommendation: Steps should be taken to help (1) prevent and document damage that results in repair or replacement costs during presidential transitions; (2) ensure that the space is ready for occupancy; and (3) avoid potential future costs associated with investigating allegations of damage, vandalism, and pranks. The Director of the Office of Management and Administration for the White House Office and the General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator should work together to (1) revise the employee check-out process to require a cost-effective inspection of office space, furniture, and equipment by the EOP and GSA within their respective areas of responsibility and to document any damage observed, and (2) explore what additional steps could be taken to ensure that the EOP office space is immediately cleaned and prepared for an incoming administration, including communicating with both outgoing and incoming administrations concerning the timetable and procedures for transition.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of the Assistant to the President for Management and Administration

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The White House Office of Management and Administration and GSA are developing an employee check-out sheet that must be completed by each EOP employee prior to departure from the agency.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Management and Administration for the White House Office and the General Services Administration (GSA) Administrator should provide clear instructions to staff about what condition the office space and equipment should be left in, how office supplies should be handled, and the penalties for damaging and vandalizing government property.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The White House Office of Management Administration and GSA were in the process of developing an employee check-out sheet that must be completed by each EOP employee prior to departure from the agency.

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