Facing an ever-shrinking budget, the Government Publishing Office is moving forward with a plan to develop an employee parking lot for commercial real estate. But the real estate firm in charge of the plan faces questions about its management capabilities.
The GPO began requesting information about developing the space last July, and the legislative branch agency announced on May 14 it had awarded a consulting services contract to CBRE, a global real estate firm.
"CBRE was selected because it met the requirements of our statement of work and because they have experience in working with Federal agencies in converting property to higher and better use," GPO spokesman Gary Somerset wrote in an email to CQ Roll Call.
CBRE will help prepare a plan for the parking lot development. Somerset did not go into detail about the terms of the consulting contract, but he said a plan for the project would be submitted to the Joint Committee on Printing, composed of the House Administration Committee and Senate Rules Committee members, for congressional approval in about six months.
While CBRE has worked with the federal government, the firm garnered recent criticism for its contract with the U.S. Postal Service. In an April 2015 report , the USPS inspector general recommended the postal service end its contract with CBRE due to a number of concerns.
According to the report, CBRE marketed and sold 49 USPS properties and conducted nearly 1,700 lease negotiations for the USPS in 2012 and 2013. The IG found serious flaws in the CBRE lease negotiations and estimated the postal service could be overpaying $9.5 million a year for leases negotiated by the company.
Asked about the report, Somerset said the CBRE contract with the GPO is different and on a much smaller scale than the postal service contract.
"That report was about CBRE management leases of USPS property valued at millions of dollars. The contract we have with CBRE is not for management or development of real estate," Somerset wrote. "We have contracted with them to help us prepare a plan at a price that is about half the $250,000 we estimated this would cost."
The GPO, like other legislative branch agencies, has faced budget cuts in recent years, resulting in reduced staffing levels. In February, the GPO cut its workforce to its lowest level in 100 years . Meanwhile, the House is set to consider a spending bill for the agency to that would cut another $10 million from the GPO's funds.
The Legislative Branch Appropriations bill allocates $110 million for the agency, which is tasked with printing, cataloging, publishing and indexing products for all three branches of government.
With a shrinking budget, the developed parking lot could result in additional funds for the GPO. But the agency stressed in a statement released on May 14 that the project, while focused on allowing for commercial development, will work to maintain employee parking spaces.
The organization is located just north of Union Station and the parking lot consists of two areas between New Jersey Avenue and H and G streets Northwest, directly across from Walmart.