(Washington, D.C.) Today, Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) named Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Richard Cordray its July Porker of the Month because of his gross mismanagement of the CFPB’s headquarters renovation budget, which has ballooned by almost 300 percent from a projected initial cost of $55 million to $215.8 million, and for the agency’s inability to produce a single shred of documentation related to the renovation.
The CFPB was created in 2011 as part of the Dodd-Frank Act. One of the agency’s objectives is to “promote financial education,” which is ironic given its failure to control costs. The CFPB has been called “unaccountable and unrestrained,” which is also an apt description of its handling of the building renovation. The first revised estimate went from $55 million in the CFPB’s fiscal year (FY) 2012 budget justification to $95 million in April 2013. It was revised a month later to $111.4 million, and then to $145.1 million in July 2013. According to a June 30, 2014 Federal Reserve Board of Governors’ Office of the Inspector General (OIG) letter, “Based on the CFPB’s assessed requirements as of June 5, 2014, we currently estimate all-in costs to total approximately $215.8 million” and “a sound business case is not available to support the funding of the renovation.” Furthermore, in what has become a disturbing pattern of either gross incompetence or systematic agency-wide obfuscation, the OIG wrote that CFPB officials were “unable to locate any documentation” related to the renovation. Director Cordray has attempted to justify the costs by calling the building as “a classic white elephant,” and claiming it will “cost a fair amount of money to bring it back up to standard.”
He singled out window replacement, plumbing and electrical upgrades, and a new roof as cost centers for the renovations, yet plans for the building also include such luxurious amenities as an indoor waterfall, a four-story glass staircase, a sunken garden, a custom “green” roof, and stools commissioned from world-renowned sculptor Maya Lin. The building, which is being rented, was accepted in “as is” condition by CFPB officials, and will not even house all of the CFPB’s staff. The renovation will cost approximately $590 per square foot, which is more than double the average cost for renovating some of Washington’s most high-end office buildings. According to the House Financial Services Committee, “…the CFPB is spending much more per square foot than it cost to build the Trump World Tower ($334/square foot), the Bellagio Hotel and Casino ($330/square foot) and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai ($450/square foot).” The latest estimated cost of $215.8 million is 37 percent greater than the value of the building, which was appraised at $157.3 million in 2011. House Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) has demanded that Director Cordray produce “full, unredacted” records related to the escalating costs for the building renovation by July 31, 2014.
“Director Cordray has apparently mistaken himself for real estate and development tycoon Donald Trump, who broke ground this week on his renovation of Washington D.C.’s Old Post Office Building around the corner from the CFPB,” said Tom Schatz. “If ‘The Donald’ was in charge of the renovation, Mr. Cordray would have been fired for incompetence.”
For breaking the budget on the CFPB HQ renovations and for being just another “loser” in a long line of administration officials who cannot keep track of important documentation related to accountability and transparency, CAGW names CFPB Director Richard Cordray its July Porker of the Month.
CAGW is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement in government. Porker of the Month is a dubious honor given to lawmakers, government officials, and political candidates who have shown a blatant disregard for the interests of taxpayers. Visit Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) for more information.