Department Of Interior

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Office of the Secretary
Joan Moody
For Immediate Release: June 19, 2003

Norton Announces Reform of Real Estate Appraisal Function

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton announced today that real estate appraisal functions now performed by various agencies within the Department of the Interior will be consolidated - a major reform recommended for several decades. The Secretary said the appraisals will be centered within a departmental office as determined by an action team to be named shortly.

"It is critical that we provide objective appraisals of value of lands under consideration for acquisition or exchange," said Norton. "Consolidating appraisal functions will ensure that appraisals are credible. This will help restore public confidence in our ability to carry out land transactions in a manner that upholds the public interest."

The consolidation of the appraisal functions will be implemented under a plan to be developed by the action team. The action team will be comprised of representatives from affected offices within the department, including appraisers and realty specialists. The plan will be designed to avoid extensive disruption to employees including job losses, to minimize budget impacts and to address the needs and priorities of agency land acquisition and exchange programs. The department expects to formally establish the new organization by September 30.

Norton's action responds to long-standing concerns about the management of appraisal functions as documented for several decades in reports issued by Interior's Inspector General, the General Accounting Office and, more recently, by the Appraisal Foundation and an interagency team under the auspices of Interior's Bureau of Land Management.

"These problems require fundamental reform," said Norton. "In the past, the department tried to resolve them by issuing new directives. Those efforts have not succeeded because they did not address the basic issue of appraiser independence. Our new organization will change the new way we do business and will gain the respect of both the public and the dedicated professionals in our appraisal and realty programs."

The department's new appraisal organization will ensure greater appraiser independence, thereby enabling Interior to provide unbiased valuation services that meet recognized professional standards. It will also provide for better coordination and consistency of appraisal guidance, enhanced professional development of appraisers, and greater efficiencies in contract monitoring and management. Consolidation will also allow for a sharing of scarce skills and resources within the entire department.




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