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Senator Casey asks feds about costs of government office leases

| Saturday, June 28, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

Pennsylvania's senior senator wants to know what a federal agency that manages the government's property is doing to conserve taxpayers' money.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton, sent a letter on Friday to Dan Tangherlini, head of the General Services Administration, inquiring about a report in a Tribune-Review story that the government has paid $45 million to lease the FBI Field Office on East Carson Street when it could have bought it for $20 million. The bureau is scheduled to keep paying about $3.5 million a year on the lease.

The GSA contends it has spent $32 million on the building. The Trib's figure comes from usaspending.gov records from 2002-11 and the GSA's own lease inventory reports from 2012-14.

“I urge you to take steps to ensure that federal property leasing is properly managed to eliminate waste and guarantee the most efficient use of taxpayer funded federal resources,” Casey wrote.

The GSA had no immediate response to Casey's letter. The agency acts as the property manager for most federal agencies. It brokers their leases with private owners and acts as the landlord for agencies that rent space in federally owned buildings.

The Government Accountability Office since 2003 has listed the long-term leasing of property as a practice at “high risk” for waste and corruption. GAO studies have shown the government would save billions of dollars by buying most of the buildings it is leasing.

But the agency has said the GSA has a hard time breaking the practice because it's easier for agencies to get money for lease payments than the larger amounts of money needed upfront to build or buy buildings.

Brian Bowling is a staff writer for Total Trib Media. Contact him at 412-325-4301 at bbowling@tribweb.com.

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