The Social Security Administration (SSA) is wasting over $6 million annually in unused office space, according to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG).
The agency has planned to consolidate its offices, which are headquartered in Woodlawn, Md., since 2012. The OIG released an audit on Friday, finding that the SSA wastes $269,010 each year in vacant workstations alone.
"During our walkthroughs of SSA’s headquarters main campus buildings, we identified 429 workstations that were not occupied or being used," the audit said. "We also identified 141 vacant workstations SSA was using to store office supplies, boxes, obsolete computer equipment, and furniture."
While the OIG noted that empty cubicles can "provide flexibility" for personnel, the unused space is costly. In the SSA’s Annex building there are 171 empty workstations—a total of 11,115 square feet—which amounts to $100,480 in rent each year.
Additionally, the audit found that the agency spends $84,985 to keep vacant space that is used for storage, and $5,698,466 in rent for buildings that are only half full.
For instance, the fourth floor of the SSA’s Meadows East offices houses just 45 employees, but costs $1,981,113 per year to rent.
The Dunleavy offices are only a quarter occupied with 107 employees, though the SSA pays $1,395,582 each year in lease costs, and Oak Meadows, which only has 34 people who work there, costs $501,602 in rent each year. A total of 234,368 square feet remains empty.
"SSA is not fully using the above-listed leased space," the audit said. "We observed that several buildings were only one-half or one-quarter occupied."
In all, the audit found that the SSA, which operates in 11 buildings owned by the General Services Administration (GSA) and leases 14 others for its 68,000 employees, wastes $6,052,461 in vacant space.
The SSA has been working on consolidating its numerous buildings and leases since January 2012, when it set goals to "reduce SSA’s real estate footprint, rent, and operating costs," "promote the best use of headquarters’ space and land," and "create a beautiful campus."
The agency is "creating systems to better manage office space," and has a "Master Housing Plan," the audit said.
One step the SSA is taking is to move employees at its Woodlawn Office Complex (WOC), which is only half occupied, to the SSA’s recently completed Wabash building in Northern Baltimore, this month. However, the SSA will continue to spend $2,838,396 to lease the entire WOC for its "25 training rooms."
Leases at the WOC and Security West building, which has 280 empty workstations, do not end until 2018. The SSA also has plans to terminate its lease for Boulevard Place, which has 31,812 usable square feet and costs $839,144 in rent each year.
The OIG recommended the SSA terminate several leases and consolidate its employees.
"We agree," the SSA said in response to the OIG’s recommendations. "We recently briefed agency executives on the Master Housing Plan, which addresses our long-term space utilization for all headquarters facilities."