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GSA Blamed In Report Identifying $835 Million In Wasted Courthouse Space

10:44 AM, Apr 9, 2013   |    comments
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (WUSA9) - The General Services Administration is getting the blame for overbuilding 32 federal courthouses across the country adding $835 million in unnecessary construction costs - and millions in other costs every month.

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One of the federal courthouses audited for overbuilding, Bryant Annex, is located caddy-corner from the U.S. Capitol.

It's not the building's Indiana Limestone and granite and bluestone insets that have auditors upset - it's that in Washington and other locations, the government simply used too much to make too much - making more courthouse space than the entire U.S. judiciary is able to use.

"It's not just the cost of construction," said Washington Guardian reporter Phillip Swarts. "There is an additional fifty one million each year in maintenance cost being wasted because you have to maintain those extra large rooms."

The Washington Guardian reports that the GSA overbuilt to the tune of 3.5 million unneeded square footage.

Click here to See Swart's Washington Guardian report.

In a response, GSA identified construction dates of the courthouses as between 2000 and 2008.

"All of the courthouses identified in the report were completed prior to the Obama Administration and its efforts to further improve utilization of buildings, dispose of unneeded assets, and freeze the federal footprint," said a GSA spokesman. "GSA continues to work with the Judiciary and Executive branch agencies to improve the utilization of space within our federal courthouses and work to address the issues raised by GAO."

Besides the Bryant Annex, the Government Accountability Office report issued to Congress focused on six other of the 33, including Eagleton Courthouse, St. Louis, Mo., Limbaugh, Sr. Courthouse, Cape Girardeau, Mo., Coyle Courthouse, Fresno, Calif, D'Amato Courthouse, Central Islip, N.Y., DeConcini Courthouse, Tuscson, Ariz., and Ferguson Courthouse, Miami, Fla.

Officials released the report to the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

Click here to see the GAO report.

The GAO and U.S. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) blame the GSA.

The report identifies unused space, atriums improperly measured and authorized, and unfinished courtrooms at the same time the historic Dyer Courthouse in Miami sits abandoned since 2008.

"For nearly six years, GSA has let this historic building deteriorate and ensure taxpayers are shortchanged while the country falls into financial ruin," Mica said in an e-mail to Washington Guardian. "This waste and unacceptable inaction."

In Missouri, the Eagleton Federal Courthouse has 398-Thousand square feet of extra space which the report says cost you nearly 9-million in extra tax dollars.

The GAO recommended new controls reporting GSA overestimated the number of judges, and didn't have consistent measurement standards.

"GSA cited serious concerns with our methodology for determining the costs associated with the extra space," the GAO report to Congress stated. "GSA and the judiciary agreed to implement these recommendations."

The GAO report indicates if GSA was able to reallocate all that wasted space, the government could have built nine additional courthouses for no extra cost.

Produced by Erin Van der Bellen, Gannett Investigations

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