Federal Real Property: NIH Has Improved Its Leasing Process, but Needs to Provide Congress with Information on Some Leases

GAO-06-918 Published: Sep 08, 2006. Publicly Released: Oct 10, 2006.
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Highlights

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the nation's primary medical and behavioral research agency. NIH's need for leased space has more than doubled since 1996 to about 3.9 million square feet in 2005. In 1996, General Services Administration (GSA) delegated leasing authority to NIH that includes performing budget scoring and prospectus analysis. In light of NIH's increased use of leased space, GAO was asked to address two issues: (1) Is NIH complying with budget scorekeeping guidelines and Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) requirements for implementing the guidelines to determine if a lease should be classified as operating or capital and ensure that no violations of the Antideficiency Act occur because of improper budget scorekeeping? and (2) Is NIH complying with the congressional prospectus process for both leases and alterations to leased buildings? To address these issues we interviewed leasing and financial officials, reviewed laws and reviewed budget scoring and prospectus analysis of 59 leases.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
National Institutes of Health The Director of NIH, using GSA as the proper channel, should report to the appropriate congressional committees the five previous NIH prospectus-level leases that did not follow the congressional prospectus process.
Closed – Implemented
In 1996, the General Services Administration (GSA) delegated leasing authority to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This authority included performing budget scoring and prospectus analysis for individual leases, which is required by the Public Buildings Act of 1959, as amended. We found that NIH had established decision points for identifying any leases for which a prospectus should be submitted through GSA for congressional approval. However, NIH had taken no such action for five prospectus-level leases. We recommended that the Director of NIH, using GSA as the proper channel, report to the appropriate committees on the five previous NIH prospectus-level leases that did not follow the congressional prospectus process. In the June 2009 response, NIH documented that it had developed prospectuses for these leases and provided them to GSA. NIH also indicated that meetings between staff from NIH, GSA and the cognizant congressional committees were subsequently held. As a result, congressional oversight was enhanced and transparency improved with regard to NIH's leasing program.

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