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There’s no excuse for the government to put dangerous cars on the road

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Our government’s priority should be to keep us safe, but one government agency — the General Services Administration (GSA) — has been neglecting public safety by knowingly leasing and selling cars subject to dangerous recalls.

The GSA — the agency recently in the headlines for delaying President-Elect Biden’s transition — maintains a fleet of vehicles that it leases to federal agencies, and when they are no longer in use, auctions them off to private buyers. Today, more than 25,000 of those vehicles are subject to open recalls, often for dangerous safety issues.

These are unsafe cars that need to be fixed before a driver gets behind the wheel. In one case, an SUV leased to the Executive Office of the President had a defect that could cause unintended braking, potentially forcing the vehicle to pull to one side while driving, increasing the risk of a crash. In another instance, a bus leased to the U.S. Army had a problem with its doors which could have delayed an emergency evacuation. A Jeep leased to the Department of Homeland Security even had a flawed electrical system that could trigger a crash on the road.

It’s shocking that the federal government would lease and sell unsafe vehicles, and these dangerous policies are even more inexcusable because getting a recall fixed is free to the vehicle owner.

In July, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an amendment that I introduced with Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) to prohibit the GSA from selling cars that are under a recall notice and have not been fixed. Fifteen percent of the vehicles currently being auctioned off by the GSA have an unfixed recall notice, and the GSA cannot be allowed to continue this practice.

As chairman of the Oversight Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, I wrote a letter to GSA Administrator Emily Murphy in September asking for information on the recalled cars being auctioned and whether measures were in place to remove those vehicles or amend the recall issue on each vehicle. I was disappointed with the response I received from the GSA.

Instead of having the recall issues repaired through the manufacturers, at no cost to the government, the GSA said that it has the lessees and buyers sign waivers acknowledging that the cars may be subject to open and unremedied recalls. GSA also claimed that prohibiting their sale of vehicles with recalls would have a negative financial impact on GSA. These excuses do not cut it.

“Buyer beware” isn’t a phrase that should relate to government agencies, but in this case, the GSA is knowingly and recklessly endangering the public. An unrepaired vehicle under recall is potentially extremely dangerous to both its driver and those around it, yet the GSA has continued to lease and sell these vehicles with little regard for public safety.

The goal of my investigation was to urge the GSA to internally correct this dangerous practice. However, this administration’s GSA leadership has not provided a solution. While I’m hopeful that the incoming Biden administration will act on this issue immediately, in the meantime, I’m developing legislation to prohibit the GSA from leasing vehicles under recall to federal agencies and from selling them to private buyers. This legislation will hold the GSA accountable for the safety of federal employees and the public.

We’ve heard for decades that government should operate more like a business, but it’s time that the GSA stops operating like the worst kind of used car dealership.

Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat from Schaumburg, represents the 8th District of Illinois.

Tags General Services Administration GSA Jan Schakowsky Raja Krishnamoorthi

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