General Services Administration:

Actions Taken to Correct Rent Expense Estimation Weaknesses

GGD-99-123: Published: Aug 19, 1999. Publicly Released: Aug 19, 1999.

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Bernard L. Ungar
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the General Services Administration's (GSA) Galaxy program for estimating the rental expenses of the Federal Buildings Fund, focusing on whether the: (1) new Galaxy program included the elements needed for tracking actual rental expenditures and forecasting future rental-of-space funding requirements; and (2) additional actions the Public Building Service (PBS) was taking to improve its budget process addressed the causes of its underestimation of the rental-of-space account.

GAO noted that: (1) Galaxy has seven basic components that appear capable of providing the data elements needed to track the actual expenditures made from the rental-of-space account and thus aid in forecasting the funding required for the rental-of-space account for budget purposes; (2) PBS has recognized that the success of the Galaxy program depends on the accuracy and maintenance of the data entered into Galaxy; (3) consequently, it has emphasized this issue in its training manual for Galaxy; (4) this manual states that all active leases and projects loaded into Galaxy must be validated; (5) the manual lists five steps that the analyst must follow to validate the information; (6) rent account analysts that GAO interviewed emphasized the need to maintain good communications among: (a) themselves, who maintain Galaxy; (b) the realty specialists, who maintain PBS' System for Tracking and Administering Real Property, the system from which the data in Galaxy were downloaded; and (c) customer agencies that provide information on their space needs; (7) GAO agrees that GSA and its customer agencies need to have good communications to ensure that GSA knows about any potential changes in inventory that a customer agency may plan in a given fiscal year, so that those changes are reflected in GSA's budget submission; (8) PBS has taken steps to improve: (a) how it calculates the rental-of-space estimate, such as using local market rental increases instead of national averages in calculating the rent increase estimates; and (b) the budgeting process in general, by establishing the Office of Financial and Information systems to oversee budget formulation, including estimating the rental-of-space account funding requirements; and (9) GAO believes that the actions PBS has identified to improve its budgeting process, if effectively implemented, address the causes it identified for its underestimation of the rental-of-space account.

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