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EPA pays millions for underutilized space

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The Environmental Protection Agency has more than 430,000 square feet of underutilized space that costs the agency more than $20 million each year, says its inspector general.

In a Feb. 20 report (.pdf), auditors say they found the space in 13 of the 16 surveyed facilities EPA leases from the General Services Administration, and note that the total space and cost could be greater since this is only a sample of its holdings.

The report's estimate of saving up to $21.6 million annually by releasing under-utilized space comes with a caveat: EPA is limited in what type of space it can release back to GSA before a lease expires. Space can only be released if it is marketable and the projected savings assumes that all of the space would meet this designation. It notes that "configuration issues and the cost of relocating employees can pose additional problems."

The agency also lacks accurate, current information on the number of personnel and usable square feet in its Strategic Lease and Asset Tracking Enterprise platform for its GSA-owned and leased offices. Auditors found this information was incorrect for personnel at 81 percent of sample sites, as of April 2012, and had incorrect space measures for 31 percent of facilities.

Auditors say that, overall, SLATE recorded nearly 550 more people than EPA had working in sampled facilities and listed roughly 236,000 fewer usable square feet than sampled facilities had, both of which could lead the agency to estimate it needed more leased space than it actually requires. The report notes an additional facility, the 325,000 square-foot Ralph H. Metcalfe building in Chicago, Ill., was not reported in SLATE at all.

The report recommends EPA take a thorough assessment of its GSA-owned and leased facilities and relocate staff as warranted, develop space guidelines for making new or renewing leases, and set policy to update SLATE more consistently. The agency concurred with the suggestions.

For more:
- download the report, 13-P-0162 (.pdf)

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