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Improving Government with a $250,000 Chandelier?

The Washington Free Beacon's Elizabeth Harrington reported today that "Fannie Mae charged taxpayers $250,000 for a chandelier."

According to Investopedia, "Fannie Mae (officially the Federal National Mortgage Association, or FNMA) is a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE)," and operates under Congressional charter." Its stock has been publicly traded since 1968.

Harrington began her report, writing:

"Fannie Mae is charging taxpayers millions for upgrades to its new headquarters, including $250,000 for a chandelier.

"The inspector general for the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), which acts as a conservator for the mortgage lender, recently noted $32 million in questionable costs in an audit for Fannie Mae's new headquarters in downtown Washington, D.C.

"Fannie Mae will be the flagship of Midtown Center, which is scheduled to complete construction in June 2018. The inspector general reported that costs for the new headquarters have "risen dramatically," to $171 million, up from $115 million when the consolidated headquarters was announced in 2015."

She continued her reporting, writing:

"The inspector general blamed expensive upgrades for cost overruns, such as a third glass walkway costing $2 million to connect Fannie Mae buildings, $1.2 million for "decorative wood slatted ceilings," decorative wood "lunch huts," and pergolas, or garden-style pavilions, in elevator lobbies.

"FHFA officials have had poor oversight of the project, according to the inspector general, because they "did not review whether any of the major upgrades were cost-effective or whether lower cost alternatives were available."

"Among the upgrades: a $250,000 chandelier that no one was quite sure what it was for.

"For example, we identified an upgrade in the 80 [percent] General Contractor construction design documents identified as a $250,000 chandelier," the inspector general said. "The expert's representative explained that the expert first thought it was a light fixture but learned later that it was an ‘architectural feature' for the trading room, intended to ‘evoke' the activity in that room and assumed that this feature was part of some ‘government art program.'"

"The acting deputy director of the FHFA told the inspector general he was "unaware" of the pricey chandelier, but said he would "question the expenditure of $250,000 for a piece of art."

"We found no evidence, however, that FHFA has ever challenged this expenditure," the inspector general said.

"After the inspector general inquired about the chandelier, officials scrapped plans for a $150,000 "hanging key sculpture," and $985,000 for "decorative screens" in a conference room."

Harrington concluded by noting the pushback from the FHFA director:

"FHFA director Watt pushed back against the report and said the new Fannie Mae headquarters will "benefit taxpayers."

"I consider the build-out features reasonable, cost-effective and consistent with my responsibilities under the law and I, therefore, did not object to them," he wrote in response to the audit. "Some of these relate to the effective and efficient operation of Fannie Mae's market room, which provides critical capital markets financial services to help support and sustain the U.S. housing market."

Sure looks as if more of the proverbial swamp needs draining.

Growls readers concerned about government waste at Fannie Mae, or another of the so-called government-sponsored enterprises, are encouraged to take a few minutes to write or call their Congressional representatives. Contact information is available at the Library of Congress' Congress.gov. Taxpayers living in Virginia's Arlington County can contact:

  • Senator Mark Warner (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-2023
  • Senator Tim Kaine (D) -- write to him or call (202) 224-4024
  • Representative Don Beyer (D) -- write to him or call (202) 225-4376

Be sure to ask for a written response. And tell them ACTA sent you.

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