Trump administration officials took “fiscally irresponsible” steps toward carrying out their proposed merger of OPM and GSA–essentially a GSA takeover of OPM’s operating functions, with its policy functions moving to OMB—without allowing for the possibility that Congress would not approve it, an IG report has said.
The “management alert” focused on actions to shift to GSA operations of OPM’s headquarters building, known as the Teddy Roosevelt Building, and the Federal Executive Institute, based in Charlottesville, Va. The report said those actions occurred last year even as opposition to the merger plan had emerged in Congress, opposition that resulted in language enacted late in the year blocking it pending a detailed outside study by the National Academy of Public Administration—which is still ongoing–then an OPM analysis of the study and consideration by Congress. A House-passed spending bill for the fiscal year starting October 1 would extend those restrictions.
“The results of the independent study and the corresponding agency report have the potential to completely change the way in which OPM operates or is structured. Despite this change in context, GSA continued to move forward with the plan to assume responsibility for operating and maintaining the TRB,” the report said. It said that preliminary projections show that if GSA takes over operations of the OPM building, there would be a one-time cost of $10.2 million to cancel current contracts plus $4.2 million annually in higher operating costs.
“Moving forward with a plan that was initiated based on a proposal that is currently on hold and that could incur millions of dollars in additional costs is not in the best interest of the government. In fact, it is a waste of the American taxpayer’s dollars and puts an additional burden on an already financially strapped agency,” it said.
It said that steps similarly were taken starting in mid-2019 to have GSA operate the FEI even though a “sufficient comprehensive analysis of the costs to operate and maintain the FEI was not provided to support GSA’s claim that the cost would not increase.” However, costs actually increased by some $300,000 just for security services, it said, adding that last month operations of the FEI were shifted back to OPM.
“However, nearly a year’s worth of time and resources were spent, by both OPM and GSA” which “again represents a waste of taxpayer dollars and was clearly not in the best interest of the government,” the report said.
Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., chair of the House government operations subcommittee, said the report shows that administration officials “failed to consider how their actions would affect their agencies, the federal workforce, the government, and the taxpayers.” He has sent the agencies numerous requests for information that he said have not been answered fully or at all.