Qwest appeals contract dispute

True to its word, Qwest Communications International Inc. is appealing a recent General Service Administration decision denying the company's claim that two contracts were unfairly awarded.

Late Thursday, Qwest appealed its case to the General Accounting Office, saying GSA's FTS 2000 contract extensions with Sprint and AT&T went against government policies.

On March 12, a GSA official denied Qwest's protest of the last-minute telecommunications contract extensions, saying Qwest's contention that GSA's award of bridge contracts to AT&T and Sprint violated government procurement policies requiring competition was "simply incorrect."

The GAO must now determine whether GSA addressed competition adequately, said Jim Payne, senior vice president of Qwest Government Systems Division. GSA has until April 23 to respond to GAO.

"We raised some very specific contractual, procedural issues and the response really did not address them," Payne said.

The GAO already is reviewing the delays in the transition from FTS 2000 to FTS 2001. Payne said that review prompted him to protest the agency-level decision with GAO, an investigative arm of Congress.

A hearing on the transition is scheduled April 26 before the House Government Reform Committee's Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee.

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. Under the extensions, price promotions were no longer offered and AT&T charged a one-time $8 million fee. FTS 2001 contractors WorldCom Inc. and Sprint now say they will complete the transition by late spring.

Qwest filed a 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 award.

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 officials denied the protest, saying GSA had demonstrated an urgent need to extend the FTS 2000 contracts.

"We are not arguing that urgent and compelling circumstances did exist," Payne said. "But you still have to document competition."

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