Lawmakers query need for GSA site

Several members of Congress are questioning why the General Services Administration is running an online auction site instead of private industry.

The site — www.gsaauctions.gov — has been operating since Jan. 17. It auctions items such as cars, jewelry and even aircraft seized by other federal agencies in criminal or forfeiture cases. The proceeds are deposited in the U.S. Treasury.

In a letter to Acting GSA Administrator Thurman Davis, the lawmakers said that the GSA site "runs counter" to the approach mandated by Congress.

In the Federal Activities Inventory Reform Act of 1998, Congress attempted to separate, wherever possible, agency competition with commercial ventures, according to the May 8 letter signed by Reps. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), Connie Morella (R-Md.), Tom Davis (R-Va.) and Albert Wynn (D-Md.)

In debating that measure, some lawmakers argued that commercial ventures would snag a bigger profit for the government because they were more adept at marketing. "There are other activities in which a public/private competition should be conducted to determine which provider can deliver the best value to the taxpayer," Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) said at the time.

In the letter, the lawmakers said the government's policy on commercial activities has been to "show restraint, and to rely on private-sector sources of supply where those are cheaper and more efficient." GSA officials had no immediate comment on the letter.

The GSA site is one of a host of government sites that have been surfacing and offers an array of personal property items, most made available from other agencies.

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