State Department:

Sale of Unneeded Overseas Property Has Increased, but Further Improvements Are Necessary

GAO-02-590: Published: Jun 11, 2002. Publicly Released: Jul 11, 2002.

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Jess T. Ford
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The U.S. government owns about 3,500 properties overseas at more than 220 locations, including embassy and consular office buildings, housing, and land. The Department of State is responsible for acquiring, managing, and disposing of these properties. In 1996, GAO reported that the State Department did not have an effective process for identifying and selling unneeded overseas real estate, and that decisions concerning the sale of some properties had been delayed for years because of parochial conflicts among the parties involved. The State Department has taken steps to implement a more systematic process for identifying unneeded properties by (1) requesting posts to annually identify excess, underutilized, and obsolete property and (2) requesting its own staff and Inspector General officials to place greater emphasis on identifying such property when they visit posts. The State Department has significantly increased its sales of unneeded properties in the last 5 years. From 1997 through 2001, it sold 104 overseas properties for over $404 million, almost triple the proceeds compared with the previous 5 year period. However, the department still has a large number of unneeded properties that have not yet been sold. The State Department has not effectively implemented recommendations made by the Real Property Advisory Board to sell unneeded property. State has disposed of only 7 properties of the 26 recommended for sale by the board.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State commented that it has implemented this recommendation by sending a worldwide cable to all posts reminding them to use the new Post Administrative Software Suite Real Property Application to record real property transactions, and stating that they are reminding post officials of their responsibilities in maintaining accurate real estate records.

    Recommendation: To improve the State Department's ability to identify properties that may be available for sale, the Secretary of State should take action to improve the accuracy of real property inventory. Ensuring that all posts install and use the new automated property inventory software would be a key step.

    Agency Affected: Department of State


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