Report: Poor management may be hurting GSA's customers

Some General Services Administration’s customer agencies may not be getting top-of-the-line service in the Pacific Rim Region because it’s struggling internally with inventories and training, according to a new report.

The Network Services Division (NSD) of the Pacific Rim Region, which is under the Federal Acquisition Service umbrella, keeps an inventory of recurring telecommunications services that it provides to customers, but officials cannot prove the data is accurate, the GSA inspector general reported in an audit dated May 30.

Because of that, nearly a third of the customer base is affected by errors in the inventory, auditors found.

NSD lacks inventory controls and procedures for administering contracts. The IG’s audit found the primary reason for the deficiencies is that officials don’t update and then validate their sales transactions that go into the Telecommunications Operating and Payment System (TOPS).

As a result, some customer agencies may be paying for terminated telecommunication services while others may be paying higher prices under tariff agreements for services that are already available under the lower priced local services contracts, according to the report. The tariff agreements offer the same services but come with a high rate for usage.

The auditors too were unable to determine how managers monitored the 1,200 customer orders billed under tariff agreements as of June 30, 2011. In California, agencies in federal buildings in cities, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, have access to lower priced telecommunications services through local services contracts. Nevertheless, NSD managers used tariff agreements for 30 such customer agencies in L.A. and 29 in San Francisco.

“These controls also serve as a first line of defense in safeguarding assets and preventing and detecting errors and fraud,” auditors wrote in the report.

The audit also found that contracting officer’s representatives (CORs) in the NSD aren’t meeting continuing education requirements, as regulations stipulate. NSD officials said they were developing ways to meet the minimum training standards. However, the plan wasn’t finished when the auditors did their review.

The IG recommended a comprehensive review of the inventory and written procedures for monitoring it going forward. They also recommended having CORs continue their education, and having managers justify their decisions to use tariff agreements to provide telecommunications services to customers.

GSA’s Pacific Rim Region officials agreed with the audit’s recommendations and have started work to address the management concerns, according to an accompanying letter.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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Reader comments

Sun, Jun 10, 2012 WouldRather NotUseGSA

All I can say is that acquisitions made through GSA schedules are rarely the best price available, and agencies could do much better fending for themselves without the bloated GSA adding overhead to so many purchases.

Fri, Jun 1, 2012

I worked 38 years for the Federal Gov't and the last 13 with GSA in NSD. I retires last year. I can say that in R10 (WA, OR, ID & AK Pacific Northwest)the inventories of agencies were close to 100% accurate as is possible. But then again we had a staff (feds and contractors) that were dedicated to making sure inventories were accurate. Most other regions worked very hard to have accurate inventories as well. R9 (Pacific Rim) was always the exception and had issues for years well before the Las Vegas situation. During the transition of services to the new Networx Long Distance contract a person in my Seattle office worked for R9 (Pacific Rim) to submit their transition orders and always had issues with staff in R9 submitting properly validated inventories and information. I think GSA is still a valid agency. It should also be noted that NSD staff are non appropriated. That means congress does not provide funding for the positions in NSD. It is based on services that are sold through the Local Services Contracts. Of course the DC office takes the bulk of the money Regions make from these contracts in order to support their little fifedoms. Get rid of HQ and GSA would run really smooth. Yes, we are paid with tax dollors from other agencies but NSD does not receive tax dollors directly from a congressional appropriation.

Fri, Jun 1, 2012

It really is time to question and evaluate the value of this agency, particularly the Federal Acquisition Service (FAS). It serves as a very expensive middle man between agencies and industry. It routinely goes well over schedule and over budget in developing contract vehicles and in making awards to industry.....which is FAS's core business. Just about any compliant industry player will get a schedule award so why go through the FAS contractural maze created. These GSA contract vehicles really just provide contractors with a place at the table if an agency chooses to use a GSA vehicle. GSA FAS has created another level of contractural bureaucracy that is time consuming and expensive for industry GSA contract holders. The GSA SES leadership is loaded with bureaucrats and self promoters most of whom have never run programs (the core of GSA's business). Time to stop. Base Closures have not hurt military readiness, closing GSA would not hurt agency performance either. We all know that government must shrink, GSA FAS would be a good place to start.

Fri, Jun 1, 2012

Unfortunately, GSAs problems exist thoughout the agency and symptomatic of the government in general. Poor management and lack of leadership since I joined the federal services a few years ago I witnessed poor management. This is not a result of lack of experience or education rather a result of self interest. Excellent is not rewarded rather punished and the status quo is the path to rewards, recognition, and promotion. Until this changes we will continue to report poor management. Also, do not forget about congress and the Executive Branch the job of federal employees is to implement policy of congress and the White House whether its good for the taxpayers or not

Fri, Jun 1, 2012 NC

Your title "Poor management may be hurting GSA's customers" should more appropriately read, “Poor management is hurting GSA's customers, thru wasting Tax Dollars..... What's next??? “

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