Audit: Newer federal courthouses are too big
You could call it Extreme Makeover: Courthouse Edition: The federal government's landlord is building courthouses that are bigger than necessary, according to a preliminary report by government auditors.
The Government Accountability Office revealed Tuesday that 27 of the 33 federal courthouses built by the General Services Administration since 2000 contain about 3.6 million square feet of extra space -- or 28 percent of the total federal court space built in the last decade. The excess space has cost $835 million in construction costs and $51 million in annual rent and operations costs, GAO said.
The report came at the request of a House subcommittee that oversees federal court construction. It cited three reasons for the extra space: courthouses are being built larger than the space authorized by Congress, federal courts are overestimating how much space they need and judges aren't sharing courtrooms.
“The findings of government waste, mismanagement, and disregard for the congressional authorization process are appalling," Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) said at a hearing about the report.
But GSA Public Buildings Service Commissioner Robert A. Peck said auditors incorrectly included negative space in the atriums of tall buildings and "phantom floors" in double height courtrooms. The incorrect measurements meant auditors mistakenly assigned normal operating and construction costs to the empty space, he said.
"We built only courtrooms requested by the Judiciary and authorized by Congress," Peck said. "GSA has been forthright and transparent in all of our documents, testimony, and briefings to Congress throughout the history of our courthouse program."
Regardless of whether GSA or GAO is correct, it's obvious that newer federal courthouses have plenty of elbow room for Lady Justice and her scales of justice.
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| May 26, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Eye Opener, Oversight
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