According to The Washington Times
, the EPA has spent $94.2 million over the last decade to purchase, rent, install and store office furniture.
When averaged out among the Environmental Protection Agency’s 15,492 employees, the costs break down to a whopping $6,000 per staffer.
The federal spending data was made public by the government watchdog group OpenTheBooks.com
. Adam Andrzejewski, the nonprofit’s founder, told the Times:
"WHILE PRIVATE COMPANIES AND CITIZENS FACE MORE AND MORE HARDSHIP FROM GOVERNMENT REGULATION, THE EPA LITERALLY SITS IN THE EASY CHAIR. THE EPA CAN’T RELATE TO THE FINANCIAL HARDSHIPS REGULAR AMERICANS FACE. IT’S HERMAN MILLER FURNITURE FOR THE BUREAUCRATS, BUT IKEA FOR THE TAXPAYERS."
Andrzejewski specifically referenced the Michigan-based company known for its high-end, modern office furniture for a reason. According to the nonprofit’s research, nearly half of the money — $48.4 million – went toward contracts for Herman Miller, Inc.
Among the products made by Herman Miller are:
This $2700 scissor chair:
This $2,800 ‘Distil’ desk:
And this $199 coat rack:
According to OpenTheBooks, the EPA has spent tens of thousands of dollars to purchase and install "Aeron" chairs from Herman Miller, an ergonomic chair that retails for $730 on the company’s website
The EPA also paid another high-end furniture retailer specializing in modern decor, Knoll Inc., nearly $5 million over the last decade, per data compiled by OpenTheBooks.
When contacted by the Times, the agency said that it:
"…TAKES ITS FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY SERIOUSLY. AS A RESULT OF GSA LEASES EXPIRING, NUMEROUS EPA OFFICES WERE REQUIRED TO MOVE OR CONSOLIDATE SPACE BETWEEN 2000 AND 2014. NEW FURNITURE PURCHASES PROVIDED THE AGENCY THE OPPORTUNITY TO OBTAIN SPACE EFFICIENCIES."
The Times notes that this is not a new problem for the government’s environmental watchdog, as an internal report
by the non-profit
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility also advised the EPA to cut back on its furniture spending in 2003.
According to that report, which was obtained by the Times, one employee is quoted as saying that:
"THE AMOUNT OF MONEY THAT [EPA’S OFFICE OF CRIMINAL ENFORCEMENT, FORENSICS AND TRAINING] WASTES IS MIND-BOGGLING."
That person later adds that the ability of agents to investigate violations is negatively affected by the EPA’s "moving and remodeling offices/buying fancy new furniture for the benefit of a favored few."
Among the contracts that the paper reports were issued for "household" and office furniture are:
- A hexagonal table worth $5,539;
- Several hickory chairs each worth $6,391;
- A "Galerie lounge chair" and "Galerie settee" by Halworth, together worth $2,641; and
- A pencil drawer worth $813.57.
Not all of the expenditures were for new furniture, however. The agency spent more than $73,000 to move the furniture out of a Michigan office so they could recarpet the building.
Pete Sepp, the president of the National Taxpayers Union, told the Times:
"SURE, BIG BUSINESSES CAN SPEND EQUALLY BIG MONEY ON OFFICE FURNITURE, BUT IF THE COSTS GET EXCESSIVE, SHAREHOLDERS CAN DEMAND ACCOUNTABILITY AND VOTE DIRECTLY WITH THEIR DOLLARS. TAXPAYERS DON’TREALLY HAVE THE SAME KIND OF CHOICE."