Heavy Equipment:

Selected Agencies Should Improve Guidance for Purchases and Leases

GAO-18-295: Published: Feb 27, 2018. Publicly Released: Feb 27, 2018.

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What GAO Found

Of the 24 agencies GAO reviewed, 20 reported owning over 136,000 heavy equipment items such as cranes, backhoes, and forklifts, and spending over $7.4 billion (in 2016 dollars) to acquire this equipment. The remaining 4 agencies reported that they do not own any heavy equipment.

Number and Percentage of Heavy Equipment Items Owned by 20 Agencies, as of June 2017

Number and Percentage of Heavy Equipment Items Owned by 20 Agencies, as of June 2017

The three selected agencies GAO reviewed in-depth—the Air Force within the Department of Defense (DOD), and the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service within the Department of the Interior (Interior)—spent about $360 million to purchase about 3,500 heavy equipment assets in calendar years 2012 through 2016 and over $5 million to lease heavy equipment from fiscal years 2012 through 2016. Officials from all three agencies stated that they consider mission needs and the availability of equipment leases when deciding whether to lease or purchase heavy equipment. Federal regulations provide that agencies should consider whether it is more economical to lease or purchase equipment when acquiring heavy equipment, and federal internal control standards require that management clearly document all transactions in a manner that allows the documentation to be readily available for examination. However, in reviewing selected leases and purchases of heavy equipment from these three agencies, GAO found that officials did not consistently conduct or document lease-versus-purchase analyses. Officials at the Air Force and Interior said that there was a lack of clarity in agency policies about when they were required to conduct and document such analyses. Without greater clarity on when lease-versus-purchase analyses should be conducted and documented, these agencies may not be spending funds on heavy equipment effectively.

Why GAO Did This Study

Federal agencies use heavy equipment such as cranes and forklifts to carry out their missions, but there is no government-wide data on federal agencies' acquisition or management of this equipment.

GAO was asked to review federal agencies' management of heavy equipment. This report, among other objectives, examines: (1) the number, type, and costs of heavy equipment items that are owned by 20 federal agencies and (2) the heavy equipment that selected agencies recently acquired as well as how they decided whether to purchase or lease this equipment.

GAO collected heavy equipment inventory data as of June 2017 from the 24 agencies that have chief financial officers responsible for overseeing financial management. GAO also selected three agencies (using factors such as the heavy equipment fleet's size) and reviewed their acquisitions of and guidance on heavy equipment. These agencies' practices are not generalizable to all acquisitions but provide insight into what efforts these agencies take to acquire thousands of heavy equipment items. GAO also interviewed officials at the three selected agencies.

What GAO Recommends

The Department of the Interior and the Air Force should clarify the circumstances in which lease-versus-purchases analyses for heavy equipment acquisitions are to be conducted and documented. The Departments of the Interior and Defense concurred with these recommendations.

For more information, contact Lori Rectanus at (202) 512-2834 or rectanusl@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2018, the Air Force was planning on issuing a "What's New in Air Force Contracting" Bulletin to clarify the circumstances in which lease-versus-purchase analyses are required.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Air Force should develop guidance to clarify the circumstances in which lease-versus-purchase analyses for heavy equipment acquisitions are to be conducted and documented. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Air Force

  2. Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2018, the Department of the Interior intends to issue clarifying guidance on when a lease-versus-purchase analysis is required and how to document that analysis. Interior set a target completion date of December 31, 2018.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Interior should further clarify in guidance the circumstances in which lease-versus-purchase analyses for heavy equipment acquisitions are to be conducted and documented. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency Affected: Department of the Interior

 

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