Virginia Rep. G. William Whitehurst has asked the General Accounting Office to investigate the dumping of surplus office furniture by U.S. agencies in suburban Washington landfills.

After a fact-finding foray into a landfill and a surplus store near Lorton convinced the 2nd District Republican that federal agencies routinely throw away their used furniture and equipment, Whitehurst called upon the GAO to examine government disposal practices and their cost to taxpayers.

"There is something inherently wrong in a system in which taxpayer-purchased merchandise is thrown out the door, picked up by someone else and then sold for a profit," Whitehurst said.

Whitehurst's action followed reports by The Washington Post that many agencies -- including the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Housing and Urban Development, and the Quartermaster Corps -- have been throwing away hundreds of dollars worth of surplus equipment daily for at least five years.

The Post also reported that, on many occasions, drivers who cart the surplus off to landfills around Lorton have salvaged usable items and taken them a few miles down Rt. 1 in order to sell them to a Woodbridge surplus store.

An investigation into the Agriculture Department's disposal practices was ordered by Agriculture Secretary Bob Bergland last Wednesday.

Bill Sewell, the assistant director for the Logistics and Communications Division at the GAO, said his office would begin its investigation as soon as Whitehurst's formal request "moves through agency channels and arrives on my desk."