Taxpayers are paying millions for items including decorative wooden “lunch huts” and a $250,000 chandelier, all listed as part of an upgrade to Fannie Mae’s new D.C. headquarters.
The inspector general for the Federal Housing Finance Agency uncovered an estimated $32 million in questionable costs in an audit for the mortgage lender’s new facility at the Midtown Center in downtown Washington, the Free Beacon reported.
The inspector general noted costs for the headquarters have “risen dramatically” from its original $115 million price tag to $171 million. Upgrades include a $2 million glass walkway to connect Fannie Mae buildings, $1.2 million “decorative wood slatted ceilings,” lunch huts, garden-style pavilions and elevator lobbies, according to the report.
According to the inspector general, FHFA officials did not offer oversight on the project as they “did not review whether any of the major upgrades were cost-effective or whether lower cost alternatives were available.”
They also approved $7.7 million on interior details, which includes $2.5 million for wood “veneer finishes,” $750,000 for “format tile core wall elevations” and upwards of $500,000 for “gypsum ceiling detailing.”
While the FHFA said such detailing was “pretty intense,” officials concluded it was “consistent with those found in major financial institutions or law firms and may be instrumental in attracting future employees to Fannie Mae.”
Also among the upgrades is a $250,000 chandelier which, an expert assumed was part of “some government art program.” They initially designated it as light fixture, but later learned it was an “architectural feature,” intended to “evoke the activity in that room.”
The inspector general said they “found no evidence” the FHFA challenged the costly chandelier.
Following inquiries on the matter, officials did away with plans for a $150,000 “hanging key sculpture” and “decorative screens” for a conference room worth $150,000.
The inspector general began the oversight project in 2016, after receiving an anonymous complaint about “excessive spending” by Fannie Mae, according to Free Beacon.
FHFA director Mel Watt rejected the allegations, claiming the upgrades at the new headquarters will “benefit taxpayers.”