State Department:

Additional Actions Needed to Improve Overseas Real Property Management

NSIAD-95-128: Published: May 15, 1995. Publicly Released: May 15, 1995.

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GAO reviewed the Department of State's management of its overseas properties, focusing on: (1) the problems State faces in managing its overseas real property; and (2) how State can strengthen its overseas real property management.

GAO found that: (1) many of State's improvements in overseas real property management have focused on facility maintenance; (2) State's maintenance improvements include assigning skilled maintenance personnel overseas, conducting global maintenance surveys, a 5-year major rehabilitation plan, a comprehensive maintenance plan for new buildings, additional maintenance funding, establishing maintenance assistance centers, and implementing a facilities evaluation and assistance program; (3) although State has strengthened its real property management program, significant problems still exist including questionable or inappropriate use of routine maintenance funds, and overseas posts' failure to conduct or complete annual assessments of government-owned and long-term leased facilities, deobligate unneeded funds, properly use the real estate management system to manage routine and preventive maintenance programs, and adequately plan for the sale or use of undeveloped properties in State's inventory; (4) State implemented a financial audit program in 1990 that improved its oversight of overseas posts' real property programs and resulted in the return of nearly $4 million in unused funds; and (5) State has implemented an information resources management system to strengthen its budgeting and planning process and has continued to upgrade its real estate management system, but its information systems still contain weaknesses.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State's Office of Foreign Buildings Operations has provided additional guidance to the overseas posts as part of its annual maintenance fund allotment cables.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should strengthen real property management by revising and clarifying State's policies and procedures governing the use of routine maintenance and repair funds, adding a checklist of appropriate and nonappropriate charges to the routine maintenance and repair allotment.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State plans to pursue expansion of the FBO audit program. However, State also cautioned that expansion may not be possible given budget constraints and a personnel hiring freeze. The Area Management Post Checklist has been revised to: (1) include a review of the annual facility condition survey; (2) require an extensive check of use of routine maintenance funds; and (3) include a check to see if the post is properly operating the work order system.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should strengthen real property management by expanding the Office of Foreign Buildings Operations' (FBO) financial audit program to ensure coverage of a greater number of overseas posts and use the FBO area manager program to have a more comprehensive check of posts' use of routine maintenance funds. Area managers' checklists should also be expanded to cover other key problems, including the extent posts: (1) conduct annual facility conditions surveys; and (2) use the automated real estate management system for work order management.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State did not agree with the recommendation, stating that it is post management's role to enforce compliance with housing standards and profiles. However, State agreed in principle that the automated system has deficiencies, including the lack of historical data for trend analysis and posts' monitoring of compliance with housing standards. FBO is currently considering options to correct such shortcomings.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should strengthen real property management by using the FBO automated real estate management system to report on and monitor whether housing units at each post comply with existing space standards, approved housing profiles, and space waiver requirements. FBO should also be directed to use these reports to enforce compliance with State's space standards.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State has sold the office building site and ocean front property near it for $2.75 million. No action is planned on the properties near the ambassador's residence.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should strengthen real property management by developing a plan of action with associated time frames for selling unneeded property in Nassau. The plan should: (1) require updated appraisals of the value of the former Office Building Chancery site and the ocean-front property near it; and (2) include supporting analysis and justification for retaining two properties for parking near the ambassador's residence, compared to the potential sales proceeds that could be realized from the sale of one of the properties.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

 

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