Senators call for GSA chief to look at PBS structure

Tuesday - 5/22/2012, 2:49pm EDT

A month after two Senate committee hearings on the General Services Administration's spending scandal, a bipartisan group of senators called on GSA Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini to evaluate the organizational structure of the Public Buildings Service.

In a letter to Tangherlini, the senators tied the Las Vegas conference to long-standing federal property management waste.

"The details that have been brought forth regarding [GSA]'s mismanagement of its 2010 Western Regional Conference have raised serious questions in the minds of many about how our government is managing taxpayer funds, as well as our efforts to curb wasteful spending," the letter began.

It then cited figures from a 2009 report from the Government Accountability Office estimating that the federal government loses $1.7 billion annually for the cost of excess and underutilized buildings.

"As you conduct your internal review and advance efforts to strengthen internal controls and oversight within the agency, we ask that you consider the structure of GSA's Public Buildings Service and the need to address long-standing property management problems so that we can minimize wasteful spending," the letter concluded.

The lawmakers who signed the letter include Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Mark Pryor (D-Ark.). They are also sponsors of the Federal Real Property Asset Management Reform Act of 2012, which they introduced in March, before the scandal broke.

They said the bill could facilitate the disposal of underutilized and unneeded federal property.

"In fact, every year since 2003, the GAO has placed real property management on its list of 'high risk' government activities, citing long-standing problems with excess and underutilized property; deteriorating and aging facilities; unreliable property data; and a heavy reliance on costly leasing instead of ownership to meet new needs," the senators said.

The senators did not specify what, if anything, in PBS's structure they thought needed to change.