By Ramsey Cox
“The purpose of the hearing today is to continue our investigation into the billions of dollars wasted on vacant and mismanaged properties, and to highlight the waste we can avoid here today by halting the construction of an unneeded courthouse in L.A.,” Denham said Friday.
The GSA acting administrator was invited as well as some judges to testify at the hearing but they declined. Denham said he was disappointed that the judges instead attended a conference in Maui, Hawaii.
“I am extremely disappointed there is no representation from the courts here today,” Denham said. “It seems outrageous that we are here in LA — physically inside a courtroom in the Roybal courthouse — yet there are no judges available to come to this hearing and testify.”
The GSA also has been criticized for holding lavish conferences in the past, most notably one in Las Vegas that cost taxpayers more than $800,000.
“I am also disappointed that GSA’s Acting Administrator has yet again chosen not to appear at our hearing,” Denham said. “After all the waste this committee has exposed on lavish conferences and training sessions, it is mindboggling the courts would host a conference in Maui that reportedly is costing the taxpayer more than $1.1 million — significantly more than the lavish Las Vegas conference hosted by GSA — with a total of 2,760 ‘room nights’ in ocean view suites and at least one ‘palace’ suite.”
Mica has been using the August recess as an opportunity to highlight empty and underutilized federal building, which he says cost taxpayers billions of dollars each year. Friday’s hearing was the sixth in a series of field hearings held by Denham’s subcommittee to focus on the need to save taxpayers’ money by improving management of federally owned property. Last week Mica held a similar hearing in Miami.
“Like Miami, we will see hundreds of millions of dollars wasted on a new courthouse while vacant space lingers for years, all paid for by the taxpayer,” Denham said. “We know for a fact we will have too much space, costing the taxpayer significant sums, if a new courthouse is built in L.A.”
Mica has said that 14,000 federal properties are currently not being used and could be sold to help reduce the national deficit. But GSA says that the 14,000 number is government-wide holdings of unused properties, and that GSA only controls 124 of these. GSA manages the properties only after other agencies say they are ready to be sold.
Mica and Denham have said their hearings have so far appeared to force GSA to speed up its own internal processes to find private buyers for some of the buildings.
— This article was updated at 11:40 p.m.