While the federal government has been probing the illegal dumping of usable government office furniture, government employes continue to throw it away, according to workers at the Montgomery County landfill in Rockville.
Yesterday at 8:30 a.m. a blue and yellow GSA truck pulled into the landfill at 600 E. Gude Rd. and emptied a load of desks, chairs and conference tables in front of a bulldozer for burial.
Landfill records indicate only that the load came from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.
When the truck came in, said bulldozer operator J. Riner, "they unloaded the stuff and told us we had to crush it up immediately and then bury it. Usually they only request us to cover it that fast when they bring in election files or chemicals.
"I tried to salvage some myself -- they were good wooden swivel chairs and tables, stuff I could have used -- but they said no way, that we had to get rid of the stuff right away."
Frank Proden, a supply systems analyst for HEW, said he had no idea where the furniture came from: I don't know... I couldn't even guess because we're so large and spread out."
Just last week, Adm. Rowland G. Freeman III, the new administrator of the General Services Administration, halted all purchases of government office furniture, saying he was not convinced that government agencies use all the furniture they already have on hand.
Freeman's statement came after the Senate Governmental Affairs' federal spending practices subcommittee presented new evidence that government agencies were continuing to buy new furniture when they had plenty of usable surplus furniture on hand.
That investigation, and one conducted by the inspector general's office of GSA, came after The Washington Post reported last month that the Agriculture Department, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and other federal agencies were shipping off hundreds of dollars worth of usable office furniture and equipment each day for burial in the District of Columbia landfill at Lorton, Va.
It was also found that much of the used furniture was being grabbed by government employes or scavengers who either took it home or sold it to surplus stores.
HEW's Proden speculated that yesterday's load of furniture could have come from the National Institutes of Health or from the Department of Public Health in Rockville, but said he could not be sure without an investigation.
Proden said that normally, and furniture or materials that his agency no longer needs is declared "excess property" and goes to the GSA for sale to other government agencies or to the public at monthly auctions.
"The only way we are authorized to dump property is when it has no commercial value or when it's not economical to fix. But even then we have to get an independent official to give us a written statement to that effect."
Meanwhile, HEW and GSA officials said yesterday that they had no idea that the dumping was being continued.
"There is no question that we are interested in looking into the matter," said Robert Wilson of the Inspector General's office at HEW. I'm happy that you brought our attention to it."
"We really and truly want to see this stuff stopped." said an aide too Freeman. "We are trying to get all the federal agencies to put their inspector general on this matter so we can go out quickly and shut this off immediately."