Ovrseas Real Property: State Department Needs to Improve Guidance and Records Management
GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE WASHINGTON DC
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GAOs analysis of the overseas real property portfolio of the Department of State State indicates that the overall inventory has increased in recent years. State reported that its leased properties, which make up about 75 percent of its inventory, increased from approximately 12,000 to 14,000 between 2008 and 2013. States numbers of federally owned properties increased, but comparing the total number of owned properties from year to year can be misleading because States method of counting these properties has been evolving over the past several years. Specifically, according to State officials, they have been revising their method for counting properties to produce more precise counts and to meet reporting guidance from the Office of Management and Budget OMB, among others. For example, State began counting separately structural assets previously included as part of another buildings assets, such as guard booths or perimeter walls, and consequently reported approximately 650 additional structural assets in fiscal year 2012 than in 2011, and approximately 900 more structures in 2013. State officials told GAO that they consider many factors in managing real property however, GAO found States available data and documentation on management decisions were limited. State officials said that they work with overseas posts to identify and dispose of unneeded properties, primarily using factors in States Foreign Affairs Manual FAM guidance. Such factors include identifying properties deemed obsolete or with excessive maintenance costs. State collects data on costs associated with unneeded properties identified for disposal, relying on posts to charge all such costs to a specific accounting code. The four posts GAO visited did not use this code consistently. For example, officials at one post charged some disposal costs to a routine maintenance account. Officials at the other posts with properties for sale used the code to charge all related disposal costs.
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