|Bureau of Land Management officials in Nevada, after criticism and controversy, have decided to start over again virtually from scratch on the Del Webb and PermaBilt/American Land Conservancy land exchanges.|
| And in both cases, the private
parties seeking the exchanges now have to offer
additional private lands for the Las Vegas-area federal
real estate they were earlier to get for less.
Perhaps coincidentally, say sources, auditors from the U.S. Interior Department's Inspector General's Office are back in Nevada again, once more scrutinizing BLM land swaps.
A year-long audit investigation of bureau land acquisition practices in Nevada, beginning in early 1995, produced Inspector General criticisms last year that the BLM in Nevada had shortchanged taxpayers at least $12 million in four land swaps studied.
According to the Nevada BLM's former chief appraiser, Charles E. Hancock, of Reno, whose detailed 1994 letter to the I.G. triggered the probe, the heart of the problem is a system of incentives that essentially reward BLM officials for knowingly endorsing grossly inadequate land appraisals at both ends of the state and on both ends of the land exchange process.
These skewed appraisals, says Hancock, greatly raise the price when the government is buying, then greatly reduce the price when the government is selling. Pocketing the difference between those prices
and the actual market
value of the properties, he points out, are favored real
estate operators. Losing out, he says, are the taxpayers
and the public.
have received and other
factors, we will be modifying our process for moving
forward with [this] exchange."
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