Recovery Act money was improperly spent on a roofing project that never happened and office furniture for remodeled government offices, according to a report by the Inspector General for the General Services Administration.
The Federal Buildings Fund was awarded $4.5 billion in 2009 for converting federal buildings into green buildings. As part of this “greening,” $4.7 million was awarded to the GSA’s Public Building Service for the national capitol region.
PBS decided to repair the roof of its regional office building in D.C., even though some reports on the roof’s condition said it wouldn’t need repairs for another 10 years. But before the work even started, PBS canceled the project because of inconsistent goals and insufficient funding, and the contractor was paid $88,887 for work that was never performed.
After canceling the roof project, PBS decided to convert executive suites in the building to open office-style workspace and create mobile workspace as part of its “zero environmental footprint” goals. But according to the IG report, the project did not justify the use of recovery act funds.
“Although the project was considered urgent to showcase the space to customer agencies and to meet the agency’s pursuit of ZEF, the primary focus of the project appeared to be the renovation of the PBS NCR Regional Commissioner’s office on the seventh floor,” the report concluded. PBS estimated the renovations would have a 45-year payback period.
But based on PBS’s own annual savings estimate of $190, the IG found the actual payback period is closer to 4,617 years. PBS management disagreed with the report, promising the work will pay off in ”significant quantifiable and unquantifiable savings to the taxpayer.”
One of those “savings” is income from leasing vacant space created by the project, but the inspector general noted that leasable space was not actually PBS’s intent, just an incidental benefit used to justify the spending. Once the renovations were finished, PBS improperly awarded a contract for furnishing the new space, according to the IG report.
PBS’s own rules specify when recovery act funds can be used for furniture, and those rules don’t include furnishing space for an existing tenant. The agency also didn’t submit the correct paperwork for the contract until a year after it was awarded, spending about 50 percent more on furniture than it would have cost to reconfigure furniture already in the building.
Throughout the project, PBS violated federal guidelines for the work and improperly awarded recovery act funds. the IG report concluded. “[Regional office building space renovations project was not a cost-effective use of Recovery Act funds,” the report said. The IG recommended PBS create control processes to make sure projects are cost-effective and follow federal guidelines.