Relocation of the District Office in Jackson, Tennessee
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relating to agency programs and operations.
Promote economy, effectiveness, and efficiency within the agency.
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Access to all information necessary for the reviews.
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March 26, 2004
The Honorable Harold Ford, Jr.
House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Mr. Ford:
On January 8, 2004, we notified your office that the Office of the Inspector General received a copy of the December 12, 2003 letter the President of the Jackson-Madison County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People sent to you. At that time, we advised you that we planned to collect and review pertinent information related to the Jackson, Tennessee, District Office's relocation and that we would inform you of our findings.
We are providing you with our report detailing the relocation of the office. My office is committed to eliminating fraud, waste, and abuse in the Social Security Administration's operations and programs. We have provided copies of the enclosed report to Senators Bill Frist and Lamar Alexander and Representative John Tanner.
If you have any questions concerning this matter, please call me or have your staff contact Douglas Cunningham, Assistant Inspector General for Congressional and Intra Governmental Liaison, at (202) 358-6319.
Patrick P. O'Carroll, Jr.
Acting Inspector General
Our objective was to provide information on the reasons for the relocation of the Jackson, Tennessee (TN) field office. Our review focused on whether the Social Security Administration (SSA) followed its relocation policies and procedures. We did not determine whether the General Services Administration (GSA) complied with applicable laws, regulations, Executive Orders or its own policies and procedures.
The President of the Jackson-Madison County Branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), sent letters dated December 12, 2003 to Senators Bill Frist and Lamar Alexander and Representatives John Tanner and Harold Ford, Jr., expressing concern about the relocation of SSA's field office in Jackson, TN. Copies of this correspondence were also sent to the Office of the Inspector General. This letter stated that public access to basic benefits had been severely impeded by moving the SSA Jackson, TN field office from its downtown location to North Jackson. Further, the letter requested that the field office be returned to its former location.
Many SSA customers are aged, disabled, or both. SSA has established field offices to serve as its main point of contact for addressing customers' needs. The Agency has a network of 1,337 field offices located in cities and rural communities across the nation. These offices provide individuals the ability to apply for a Social Security number or benefits, obtain information about their earnings records, or conduct other program-related business.
Federal agencies conducting the procurement of real property must comply with the requirements of all applicable laws, including the Rural Development Act of 1972, regulations, and Executive Orders. , Each agency is responsible for identifying its geographic service area and the delineated area within which it wishes to locate specific activities. In addition to complying with applicable laws, regulations and Executive Orders, selection of an office location should be consistent with the agency's mission and program requirements.
GSA is the "landlord" for the Federal government and serves as the
sole agent in acquiring space used by Federal agencies, including SSA. Among
the many functions GSA performs are: leasing space to Federal customer agencies;
repairing, altering and renovating existing facilities; and collecting rents
from its Federal tenants. SSA works with GSA to secure space for its operations.
Results of Review
Our review found SSA initiated the move from the Ed Jones Federal Building in downtown Jackson, TN because it needed additional space for interviewing workstations, interactive video teletraining, and future expansion. Also, we determined that SSA followed applicable policies and procedures for the relocation of its Jackson, TN field office. We did not determine whether GSA complied with applicable laws, regulations, Executive Orders or its own policies and procedures.
Ed Jones Federal Building
The Ed Jones Federal Building was built in 1932 as a Federal Courthouse. It contains a total of four floors-a basement level and three floors above ground. GSA staff advised us major renovations made to the building were limited to mechanical upgrades, security upgrades and upgrades/repairs to the windows. Lesser renovations were made to individual tenant occupied spaces.
The basement of the Ed Jones building contained numerous offices co-located with the building's boiler and mechanical rooms. Disabled individuals in wheelchairs were required to enter from the rear basement level entrance and traverse the length of the building, while negotiating several corridors to gain access to the elevator. The elevator accessed the first floor where SSA's field office was located.
Additionally, SSA staff stated the Federal building had a security guard, metal detectors, and cameras for the protection of all employees and its customers. Further, the field office manager had a monitor from which activity in the waiting room could be viewed. However, the security guard did not have access to a monitor.
SSA Requests Additional Space
In a June 8, 1999 memorandum, the former District Office Manager initially requested the Jackson, TN District Office move from the Ed Jones Federal Building. The Manager cited the Ed Jones Federal Building lacked adequate space for additional interviewing workstations, and interactive video teletraining. Further, the memorandum indicated all contiguous space in the Ed Jones Federal Building was occupied, which negated further expansion of office space.
On January 20, 2000, GSA responded to SSA's follow-up space request. GSA offered SSA space in the basement of the Ed Jones Federal Building. In addition, GSA requested SSA consider two issues: (1) rent would increase in a leased space and (2) the Federal building offered a level of security not found in leased space. SSA declined the offer stating the additional space in the basement of the Ed Jones Federal Building was not suitable to its needs as SSA personnel would be housed on two separate floors. The Agency advised GSA it needed open, contiguous space for its employee's modular workstations.
Space Acquisition Process
In response to SSA's request, GSA initiated its "space acquisition process" to acquire space to relocate the Jackson, TN field office. In October 2000, GSA advised the Mayor of Jackson, TN of the relocation project. The Mayor was informed that GSA would advertise in the local media for 9,325 to 9,600 useable square feet of contiguous office and related-use space. GSA requested the Mayor's assistance in identifying the boundaries of the Central Business District (CBD) and any historic districts or properties.
GSA's Site Selection Guide provides, "When operationally appropriate and economically prudent, Executive Order 13006 requires that Federal agencies give first consideration to properties within historic districts when selecting locations for their facilities..." In its letter to the Mayor, GSA advised that in acquiring space for the SSA field office, it shall give first consideration to property located in historic districts within the CBD. If no historic properties are available, then other properties in the CBD would be considered. Upon failing to locate suitable property in the CBD, GSA would then consider properties outside the downtown area. According to GSA staff, the Mayor advised GSA he was interested in having the SSA field office in the downtown area of Jackson, TN.
GSA documents indicate the Jackson Planning Department assisted in clarifying boundaries within the CBD and gave advice on historic districts within the area. Further, GSA documents indicate the Jackson Planning Department modified the boundaries in the CBD. A revised CBD was created and GSA requested the Jackson Planning Department forward a map with the revised CBD.
In March 2001, GSA advertised for lease space in Jackson, TN. The advertisement noted "the U. S. Government seeks to lease approximately 11,400 rentable square feet of office and related use space." The advertisement indicated the property must be located in the CBD or within specific geographical boundaries. First consideration would be given to the CBD.
Further, on April 27, 2001 GSA conducted a market survey in Jackson, TN. Prior to the market survey, a site in the CBD was rejected because it called for operations on two floors. The market survey was conducted to review 13 proposed sites, three of which were in the CBD. Based on GSA's policy, 7 of the 13 proposed sites-including the 3 sites in the CBD-were rejected leaving 6 remaining sites for consideration. One of the three sites in the CBD was rejected due to the proximity of a railroad and faced an elevated highway bypass. The second site was rejected due to an industrial type setting with a trucking distribution warehouse and an oil distribution center. The last site was rejected for the same reasons as the second site and because it also faced the prison ward of a county criminal justice center.
GSA, with the concurrence of SSA, decided to solicit offers from the six remaining sites and one additional site which was a late entrant located in the CBD. GSA determined that having only one site in the CBD did not constitute adequate competition. On September 17, 2001, Solicitations for Offers were sent to the five bidders representing the seven sites. Offers were due on October 18, 2001.
Of the seven sites, GSA received offers from four bidders for five office relocation sites. One of the four offers withdrew later in the process. On February 1, 2002, after a period of negotiation, GSA received the "best and final offers" from the remaining three bidders. GSA reviewed the final bids and sent its recommendation to SSA's Atlanta Regional Office for concurrence. On February 14, 2002, GSA recommended SSA accept the bid to construct a new building at 415 Cheyenne Drive in North Jackson.
SSA did not hold a public forum to announce the relocation. SSA staff advised us that its policy does not require a public forum.
415 Cheyenne Drive
On May 15, 2003, SSA field office personnel informed the local news media of the planned relocation of the office from the Ed Jones Federal Building to 415 Cheyenne Drive in North Jackson. In June 2003, the office moved approximately 6 miles to the newly constructed building.
SSA officials stated that the new building is convenient for people throughout the service area which includes 5 counties and a population of approximately 165,000 people. The office is accessible by interstate I-40 and other State routes. In addition, an SSA official explained that it can take 45 minutes to 1 hour for an individual to travel by bus from downtown Jackson, TN to the new office location. SSA negotiated with the Jackson Transit Authority to have individuals dropped off in front of the office. The field office requested bus schedules and information on reduced fares for the aged and disabled to share with the public.
The building at 415 Cheyenne Drive is a one-floor structure solely occupied by the SSA office. SSA staff advised the building has a much-improved parking situation. The one-floor structure affords easier access to SSA's offices for the aged and disabled. A security guard is located at the building entrance. The security guard and field office manager can view individuals in the waiting and interview areas. The new office space provides for an interactive video teletraining room, cubicles for front-end interviewing, and space for additional workstations for anticipated future hires.
Appendix A - Executive Orders
Appendix B - Scope and Methodology
Executive Order 12072 requires that Central Business Areas (CBA) be given preference when selecting locations for meeting Federal space needs. Specifically, section 1-103 of the Executive Order provides, " the process for meeting Federal space needs in urban areas shall give first consideration to a centralized community business area and adjacent areas of similar character, including other specific areas, which may be recommended by local officials." Further, Section 1-201 of the Executive Order provides that "[t]he Administrator of General Services shall develop programs to implement the policies of this Order through efficient acquisition and utilization of Federally owned and leased space." In meeting Federal space needs in urban areas, the Administrator is to consider " the convenience of the public served, and the maintenance and improvement of safe and healthful working conditions for the employees."
Executive Order 13006 reaffirmed the commitment set forth in Executive Order
12072 to strengthen our nation's cities by encouraging the location of Federal
facilities in cities. The Order directs the Federal government to "
and maintain, wherever operationally appropriate and economically prudent, historic
properties and districts, especially those in our central business areas."
The Rural Development Act of 1972 also provides that Federal agencies give first
consideration to historic properties within historic districts.
Scope and Methodology
Our objective was to provide information on the reasons for the relocation of the Jackson, Tennessee field office. Our review focused on whether the Social Security Administration (SSA) followed its relocation policy and procedures. We did not determine whether the General Services Administration (GSA) complied with applicable laws, regulations, Executive Orders or its own policies and procedures.
To accomplish our objective, we:
Reviewed Executive Orders 12072 and 13006, Rural Development Act of 1972, Titles 41 and 48 of the Code of Federal Regulations, and SSA's Administration Instruction System procedures on Realty and Space Management.
Interviewed SSA staff to determine the reasons for relocation of Jackson, Tennessee field office and obtained documentation supporting the relocation.
Obtained supporting documentation from GSA staff for the location of sites and usable space in the Ed Jones Federal Building and Cheyenne Drive locations.
The SSA operating component reviewed was the Deputy Commissioner for Finance, Assessment and Management/Office of Facilities Management/Office of Realty Management. Our work was conducted in Baltimore, Maryland, from December 2003 to February 2004. We conducted our review in accordance with the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency's Quality Standards for Inspections.
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