The Department of State Has Continuing Problems in Managing Real Estate Overseas

ID-78-16: Published: Jul 12, 1978. Publicly Released: Jul 12, 1978.

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The Department of State's Office of Foreign Buildings is responsible for acquiring, constructing, selling, maintaining, and operating about $3 billion worth of government-owned and leased properties in 215 cities and 135 countries.

The overseas construction program is not effective because of a lack of reliable, long-range planning; poor cost estimating; external pressures; and insufficient technical personnel. Management of employee housing is fragmented and lacks adequate criteria, centralized review, and a uniform policy. This results in higher costs because employees are provided with housing that exceeds space standards and living quarters allowances. Properties are not properly maintained and managed because of a lack of qualified personnel to make inspections, weak maintenance criteria, and deficient information used by managers. In spite of plans to establish a real property management information system, the Office had not established a reliable system 8 years after GAO expressed concerns on this subject. It is estimated that it will be least 5 more years before such a system is operational. A recent appointment of a new Office of Foreign Buildings' Director offers the opportunity for improved management.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should: (1) assign to the Office the responsibility for developing real estate plans and criteria for determining whether ownership or leasing arrangements best satisfy requirements; (2) ask Congress for full funding to cover a project site, design, and construction; (3) issue a directive that changes not be made to buildings plans and projects after they have been approved; (4) encourage the establishment of overseas regional offices; (5) centralize funding and control of overseas housing; (6) develop uniform criteria for reviewing leases; (7) review leases to ensure compliance with space criteria and standards; (8) develop training programs; (9) develop cost-benefit analyses to support the Capital Fund concept; (10) establish maintenance criteria and procedures; (11) direct posts to submit required information; (12) ensure adequate Office management staffing; (13) have real estate matters at posts assigned to the General Services Officer; (14) have missions establish a simple cost accounting system until an automated system is operational; and (15) require documentation of architect selection. The Director of the Office should require the use of current data in developing cost estimates.

    Agency Affected:

 

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