State Auditor and Inspector Gary Jones on Friday blamed the deterioration of Oklahoma's government buildings on shortsighted legislative leaders and said repairs will cost millions of
He called the way the state manages its buildings highly decentralized, inconsistent and underfunded.
Jones, a Republican, urged state leaders to come up with more creative methods to finance improvements besides bond issues.
“The shortsightedness of legislative leadership and lack of commitment to address capital asset needs has resulted in deteriorating buildings, government service disruptions and increased risk to the public health,” he wrote in a performance audit of the Oklahoma Department of Central Services.
The audit was made public Friday.
“The absence of planning and inadequate funding for what could have been routine maintenance expenditures has now escalated into millions,” he wrote. “If you don't change the oil in your car, what do you expect to happen?”
Talk of bond issue
The release of the audit comes at a time legislative leaders are discussing using a bond issue of up to $200 million to repair the crumbling nearly 100-year-old state Capitol and other state buildings.
The Oklahoma Department of Central Services manages only 17 of the approximately 30 buildings in the state Capitol complex in Oklahoma City. It also manages two office buildings in Tulsa. By law, it is supposed to construct, maintain and operate all buildings owned or occupied by the state, according to the audit.
The audit noted that the Department of Central Services has never even identified all of the state-owned real property. Despite multiple attempts since 1991 to inventory all state-owned real property, the list is incomplete.
The audit noted the state of Georgia saved $22 million through the sale of surplus property after an inventory.
“The problem with not knowing what buildings the state owns is we may be building other buildings when we already have something else that might work,” Jones told The Oklahoman on Friday.
The state also leases buildings, and it may be renewing leases when the state already owns empty space that could be used, he said.
“Everyone wants a brand-new, custom-built building, but is that the most practical way to use state taxpayers' dollars?” he asked.
Jones said another problem is state agencies have had new buildings constructed without getting the Department of Central Services involved in the planning process.
The result has been the construction of state office space that sometimes is extremely difficult to operate and maintain, he said.
“With some of these designs, the architects got real creative. But they
Jones gave three examples:
• Light fixtures were installed in locations in the new Attorney General Building that will require the construction of special scaffolding to reach and replace lightbulbs.
• Skylights were installed in the new State Banking Department Building that impeded later installation of a new cooling unit.
• A poorly designed cooling system was installed in the Agriculture Building that operates around the clock when it is only necessary to constantly cool one part of the building.
Jones said his auditors have been talking with state lawmakers during the course of the audit, and legislation has already been introduced that would fix many of the problems.
“A lot of our recommendations are incorporated in Senate Bill 1052,” he said.