FBI HQ at Heart of Controversial New GSA OIG Report

The General Services Administration’s (GSA) Office of Inspector General (OIG) has released a draft report detailing the results of a review it initiated in March. The review was conducted pursuant to a request from Rep. Gerry Connolly, Ranking Member on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Subcommittee on Government Operations, and set out to investigate “GSA's decision-making process for the revised FBI headquarters project plan, including an analysis of whether the revised plan properly accounts for the full costs and security requirements of the project.”

Among the matters looked into by OIG was “whether GSA took the position that executive privilege precluded sharing information with the OIG, which is part of GSA and within the Executive Branch.”

The review consisted of 20 interviews – including interviews with GSA Administrator Emily Murphy, GSA Acting General Counsel Jack St. John, GSA Public Buildings Service Commissioner Daniel Mathews, and the Unit Chief of the FBI’s Headquarters Program Management Office – reviews of more than 50,000 documents and e-mails relevant to the matter, and a review of GSA and FBI officials’ congressional testimony from the past two years.

The OIG writes, “We found that Murphy’s congressional testimony was incomplete and may have left the misleading impression that she had no discussions with White House officials in the decision-making process about the project.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the highly-charged nature of the report elicited a vociferous response from GSA.

“The draft report includes wide-ranging speculative allegations regarding that testimony, which serve as an unnecessary distraction to the report’s stated purpose of reviewing GSA’s decision-making process on the revised FBI headquarters project plans,” GSA said in response.

Federal News Radio also retained Brian Miller, a former inspector general at GSA, to officially comment on the report. Miller suggested that the report may indeed step beyond the usual scope of OIG work.

“When it’s talking about the cost of the FBI building, that’s all pretty traditional of an IG function. When the report adds in a section on the testimony of the administrator, that’s where I think it may be going beyond the facts,” Miller said.

“As I understand the facts, the FBI made the decision to keep the headquarters where it is,” Miller continued. “That’s what was at the heart of the question, and that’s what the administrator testified to. She doesn’t have an obligation to answer follow-up questions that were not asked.”

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