Federal Real Property:
Commodity Futures Trading Commission Needs Better Leasing Guidance to Improve Cost-effectiveness
GAO-16-434: Published: Apr 18, 2016. Publicly Released: Apr 18, 2016.
What GAO Found
The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) did not make cost-effective decisions consistent with leading government guidance for lease procurement and internal controls when planning for additional space in fiscal years 2008–2015. CFTC began planning for expansion in the fiscal year 2009 time frame—more than a year before the enactment of the Dodd-Frank Act in July 2010. CFTC renewed leases and expanded space in its Washington, D.C., headquarters and three regional offices in anticipation of receiving funding to hire additional staff but did not receive the amounts requested. As a result, CFTC has lease obligations for currently unused space some of which extends through 2025. Overall, the total occupancy level for all four offices combined was about 78 percent as of the end of fiscal year 2015, and each office has different occupancy levels, as shown in the figure below. CFTC has independent authority to lease real property, including office space. The two documents CFTC uses to guide the lease procurement process provide some high-level guidance on this process, but the documents do not establish specific policies and procedures to help ensure cost-effective decisions. By comparison, leading government guidance, from the General Services Administration (GSA) includes comprehensive details on lease procurement. The lack of this type of detail may have contributed to CFTC's making decisions that were not cost-effective.
Commodity Futures Trading Commission's Space Utilization by Office Location, Fiscal Year 2015
GAO identified several potential options that CFTC may pursue now and in the future to increase space utilization and improve the cost-effectiveness of its leasing arrangements: (1) relocating offices to less costly locations, (2) reducing office space requirements through enhanced telework, and (3) consolidating two regional offices—Kansas City and Chicago. CFTC officials told GAO that these options may not be feasible; however, the officials have not fully assessed these options or their potential for improving cost-effectiveness and do not have a timeline for doing so.
Why GAO Did This Study
The CFTC regulates certain financial markets, and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act) expanded its regulatory responsibilities. Prior to enactment of the Dodd-Frank Act, in anticipation of these increased responsibilities, the agency began planning for more space to accommodate additional staff in each of four office locations.
GAO was asked to review CFTC's staffing, leasing practices, and costs. This report examines: (1) the extent to which CFTC made cost-effective decisions and used leading government guidance in planning for additional space in fiscal years 2008 through 2015 and (2) potential options to improve the cost-effectiveness of CFTC's future leasing. GAO (1) reviewed applicable federal laws, regulations, and guidance that apply to real property leasing and CFTC's space-planning documents and leases for the fiscal years 2008 through 2015; (2) analyzed data and conducted interviews with key officials from CFTC and GSA; and (3) visited all four CFTC offices.
What GAO Recommends
To help ensure cost-effective leasing decisions, GAO recommends that CFTC (1) ensure that its revised leasing policies and procedures incorporate leading government guidance and (2) establish a timeline for evaluating and documenting options to potentially improve space utilization and reduce leasing costs. CFTC generally concurred with GAO's recommendations but noted that it would not be able to take actions to reduce lease costs in the near term.
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Recommendations for Executive Action
Comments: On July 5, 2017, CFTC told us that in August, 2016, it had entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the General Services Administration (GSA), whereby GSA will procure and administer all new leases for CFTC consistent with GSA policies and procedures. The MOU provides a framework by which GSA will apply its expertise in the leasing field to satisfy CFTC's real property space requirements, while ensuring compliance with appropriations laws and regulations applicable to real property transactions. GSA will procure new CFTC leases consistent with CFTC's demonstrated needs and requirements, GSA's practices and procedures as well as relevant statutes, Executive Orders, and supplemental agency policies and guidance. As part of its service offering, GSA will work with CFTC to maximize and increase efficiency in its planning for future space requirements and to consider alternatives to acquiring additional office space, such as consolidation, co-location, teleworking, and hoteling. CFTC has retained all responsibilities for its existing leases, but will leverage GSA's experience for administering them. Through the MOU, GSA will consult with and advise CFTC in administering its existing leases, which may also include implementing one or more of the initiatives described above for maximizing the efficiency of CFTC's current leasing inventory.
Recommendation: To help ensure that the CFTC makes cost-effective leasing decisions, and considers options for reducing future lease costs, prior to entering into any new or expanded lease agreements, the Chairman of the CFTC should ensure that as CFTC revises its leasing policies and procedures, it includes comprehensive details on lease procurement that are consistent with leading government guidance and standards to assure cost-effective decisions.
Agency Affected: Commodity Futures Trading Commission
Comments: On July 5, 2017, CFTC said that it does not have any plans, at this time, to relocate or consolidate its offices. However, CFTC said that as it enters the planning phase for acquiring new space, as its existing leases expire, beginning in April 2018, it will perform a comprehensive review of its space needs and utilization.
Recommendation: To help ensure that the CFTC makes cost-effective leasing decisions, and considers options for reducing future lease costs, prior to entering into any new or expanded lease agreements, the Chairman of the CFTC should establish a timeline for evaluating and documenting options to potentially improve space utilization and reduce leasing costs including, but not restricted to, (1) moving offices to less costly locations, (2) implementing enhanced telework, and (3) consolidating the Kansas City and Chicago regional offices.
Agency Affected: Commodity Futures Trading Commission