GSA, OMB Advised to Better Validate Data on Disposal of Excess Federal Property

The current shrink-the-government climate suggests a continuation under President Trump of the Obama administration’s efforts to shed unneeded federal properties.

As they implement a new law aimed at streamlining the real estate disposal process, the Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration on Thursday got word from Congress’ watchdog that some of the agency-reported data on assets are faulty.

Though “OMB and GSA and selected federal agencies have taken steps to improve government-wide real-property data,” the Government Accountability Office wrote in a March report, “additional opportunities exist to make further improvements to data and reporting on disposed buildings” which can be sold, demolished or transferred to needier agencies.

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One of the pitfalls that continues to hamper accurate maintenance of the Federal Real Property Profile is that agencies have reported the same building as having been disposed of multiple times. Auditors found 13 buildings so reported in fiscal 2014 and 2015, as well as 121 buildings reported gone in fiscal 2015 that also appeared in databases going back to 2011.

Another pitfall arose when OMB used FRPP data differently in reporting fiscal 2014 disposals than in fiscal 2015, leading it to include 207 non-federally owned buildings in its reporting of domestic building reductions, GAO found.

“Given that these inconsistencies resulted in small differences in the number of buildings reported, GAO determined that the inconsistencies did not affect the overall reliability of governmentwide reporting of disposal data,” said auditors, who sampled disposal reports from the Energy, Agriculture and Interior departments because of their relatively high volumes.

Both GSA and OMB have taken steps to improve data entry and data verification, according to the report addressed to Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis.; Rob Portman, R-Ohio; and James Lankford, R-Okla.

But GAO recommended that GSA implement a data validation procedure to prevent reporting a building as disposed of multiple times and that OMB, in coordination with GSA, establish a procedure to verify that its reports include data as intended.

Both the central agencies agreed.

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