The White House:

Status of Review of the Executive Residence

T-OGC/AIMD-98-12: Published: Nov 6, 1997. Publicly Released: Nov 6, 1997.

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GAO discussed the status of its work on the number of overnight guests and stays in the Executive Residence at the White House, focusing on: (1) an audit of certain fiscal year 1996 expenditures, including those to operate the Executive Residence, that are accounted for solely on the certificate of the President or the Vice President and referred to as unvouchered activities; (2) a review of certain processes and procedures relating to reimbursable expenditures of the Executive Residence, such as those for political events; and (3) a review of the number and cost of overnight stays in the Executive Residence since January 1993.

GAO noted that: (1) its first two assignments in this area, relating to audits of certain 1996 expenditures and a review of certain processes and procedures relating to reimbursable expenditures, are proceeding on schedule; (2) its third assignment relates to the number and costs of overnight stays in the Executive Residence since January 1993; (3) GAO requested access to all books, documents, papers, or other records related to the number of overnight guests at the Executive Residence to achieve its objective of counting and reporting the number of overnight guests and stays; (4) in an October 23, 1997, letter, the Associate Counsel to the President characterized GAO's request as one to gain access to private and personal papers of the First Family, but expressed a willingness to continue discussing the matter; (5) GAO is open to reviewing other materials to determine the number and duration of overnight guests and stays at the Executive Residence; (6) in the October 1997 letter, the Associate Counsel argued that a privacy interest protects the First Family's notes and correspondence, and stated that GAO's statutory right of access encompasses agency records and does not reach records of the First Family; (7) GAO believes that disclosure of the information is solely in aid of the congressional power to enact legislation, oversee the operation of government, and appropriate funds under the Constitution, with the presumption of a valid legislative purpose; (8) the Executive Residence is a government facility staffed by federal employees and funded with appropriated tax dollars; (9) this subcommittee considers budget requests by the President for the operation and maintenance of the Executive Residence, and in so doing, it desires to have information relating to the operation of the Executive Residence and the workload of the government employees responsible for maintaining it, including overtime and duties associated with overnight guests, as well as the number of overnight guests and stays; and (10) accordingly, for purposes of GAO's audit and access authority, GAO believes the correspondence, and other written materials documenting use of the Executive Residence, created by the President or First Lady or received by them from private parties, and used by government employees to compile statistics released to the public, are records as that term is used in 31 U.S.C. 716.

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