GSA denies Qwest telecom protest

A General Services Administration protest official has denied a protest by Qwest Communications International Inc. of GSA's last-minute contract extensions with Sprint and AT&T for FTS 2000 services.

The ruling, issued to lawyers for GSA and Qwest on March 12, said Qwest's contention is "simply incorrect" that GSA's award of bridge contracts to AT&T and Sprint violated government procurement policies requiring competition.

"The agency established that there was an "unusual and compelling urgency' to conduct the procurement as it did," Donald Suda, a GSA protest official, wrote in the ruling. "Further, in the circumstances of this procurement, any other course of action would have almost certainly resulted in delays as well as unnecessary and duplicative costs without any apparent benefit to the government."

Jim Payne, senior vice president of Qwest Government Systems Division said in a statement that the company is considering challenging the decision.

"This decision casts a long shadow over the drive for competition in the FTS contract arena, which was our principal objective in filing this protest," Payne said.

Qwest filed the protest with GSA on Dec. 15, 2000, claiming that the bridge contracts awarded to AT&T and Sprint on Dec. 5 violated the Competition in Contracting Act of 1984 and the Federal Acquisition Regulation. Such rules require agencies to publish notices announcing procurements in the Commerce Business Daily before making the awards.

Qwest also claimed that sole-source contracts with AT&T and Sprint could not be justified because the telecommunications services offered under the FTS 2000 contracts are available elsewhere.

GSA extended AT&T's contract until Dec. 6, 2001, and Sprint's until June 6, 2001, because 27 agencies failed to complete the transition from FTS 2000 to FTS 2001 by the Dec. 6, 2000, deadline. FTS 2001 contractors WorldCom Inc. and Sprint now say they will complete the transition by late spring.

GSA was not prepared to comment in time for this report.

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