Competitive Financing Mechanisms:

Auctions Used by Federal Agencies

HEHS-99-57R: Published: Feb 24, 1999. Publicly Released: Feb 24, 1999.

Additional Materials:


Carlotta C. Joyner
(202) 512-3000


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the auctions federal agencies currently use to award rights or sell assets and the way in which they differ.

GAO noted that: (1) GAO identified 31 auctions that federal agencies use to sell assets such as rights to conduct certain activities, financial assets, real estate, and consumer goods; (2) GAO classified 12 of the 31 as auctions for specialized items that are of interest primarily to members of a particular industry or large investors; (3) assets sold in these auctions include the right to provide wireless communications service in a given market, allowances to emit a certain amount of sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere, and Treasury securities; (4) some of these auctions sell assets in a single round of bidding while others use multiple rounds, and some result in a single winner while others result in multiple winners; (5) the 19 other auctions are for assets that can be classified as being of interest to the general public, including individual homes and consumer goods, such as cars or furniture, seized or deemed surplus by the government; and (6) some of these auctions use open bidding and others use sealed bidding, but they have many characteristics in common, such as a single winner for each item auctioned and a single round of bidding.

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