GAO Report Finds Obama’s $1.6 Billion Secret

In one of its latest releases, the Government Accountability Office is recommending that federal agencies improve processes to identify underutilized vehicles in the government’s fleet of nearly 450,000.

What the GAO study found:

“Federal agencies spent more than $1.6 billion to purchase approximately 64,500 passenger vehicles and light trucks through the General Services Administration (GSA) from fiscal years 2011 through 2015. Five departments—Defense (DOD), Homeland Security (DHS), Agriculture (USDA), Justice, and Interior—purchased 90 percent of these vehicles, and spent a comparable percentage of the associated funds. The vehicles cost an average of approximately $25,600 each. GAO determined that the three agencies reviewed—Navy within DOD, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) within DHS, and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) within USDA—varied in efforts to determine if vehicles were utilized in fiscal year 2015. Navy determined that all of the 3,652 vehicles GAO selected for review were utilized by applying DOD and Navy criteria such as for mileage and individually justifying vehicles. CBP did not determine if 1,862 (81 percent) of its 2,300 selected vehicles were utilized in fiscal year 2015 even though the vehicles did not meet DHS’s minimum mileage criteria. CBP officials stated that, contrary to DHS policy, CBP did not have criteria to measure these vehicles’ utilization because it was difficult to manually collect the data needed to establish appropriate criteria and assess if vehicles met those criteria. CBP is currently installing devices in many of its vehicles that will allow it to more easily collect such data, but lacks a specific plan for how to ensure these data will allow it to determine if vehicles are utilized. NRCS did not determine if 579 (9 percent) of its 6,223 selected vehicles were utilized in fiscal year 2015. USDA and NRCS fleet officials stated that the agency did not annually assess vehicle utilization, nor did it apply USDA criteria such as mileage or days used. USDA and NRCS officials said they were unaware of USDA’s policy requiring these steps because the policy had not been widely discussed or shared within USDA since 2012. CBP and NRCS cumulatively incurred an estimated $13.5 million in depreciation and maintenance costs in fiscal year 2015 for vehicles with unknown utilization (see table). While these costs may not equal the cost savings agencies derive from eliminating underutilized vehicles, without corrective action, agencies are incurring expenses to retain vehicles without determining if they are utilized.”

The report also questioned whether federal agencies billed taxpayers for vehicle upgrades for which the government spent an excess of $2.5 million. The GAO was unable to determine if the upgrades, such as heated or leather seats, remote keyless start, powered seats and video entertainment systems, were necessary for the agencies’ missions as required by federal guidelines.

“In analyzing these options, we were not able to determine if six of these types of options were related to safety, efficiency, economy, suitability, or administrative functions,” the GAO noted.

Video and sound systems worth over $3,000 each were reportedly installed on six of the vehicles, totaling $18,524. Heated or leather seats were featured in others, costing an average $1,300 per vehicle, and totaling $49,476.

The GAO, however, found that some of the upgrades were justified, such as a $167,427 Ford pickup truck which the Army currently uses for recruitment. The truck includes leather, heated, and cooled captain chairs, DVD and MP3 players, a Sirius radio, chrome door handles, custom head lamps, and polished aluminum 22.5-inch wheels.

The Army has utilized the truck at more than 100 events and says that it has proven to be quite the hit, labeling it one of the most requested assets in its fleet.

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