Telecom contract hits snags

GAO letter

Existing local telecommunications contracts seem to be standing in the way of agencies moving to the new, lower-priced contracts offered by the General Services Administration, according to the General Accounting Office.

GSA envisioned that the new Metropolitan Area Acquisition contracts, negotiated at lower rates in the post-deregulation environment, would compliment the older contracts as they expired. But following up on questions from a hearing last month on the MAAs, GAO told the House Government Reform Committee's Subcommittee on Technology and Procurement Policy that agencies are facing penalties if they want to move from one of the old contracts to the new ones.

Under the wording of the old contracts, "the government must either pay prevailing higher tariff rates for the remaining lines, or continue to pay for the minimum number of lines [required in the contracts] whether it uses them or not," GAO wrote in a letter to subcommittee chairman Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.).

There is no way to tell yet whether this "indication or appearance of conflict" is responsible for the delays in MAA implementation that have kept agencies from transitioning in the nine-month deadline set by GSA. But GAO is continuing work on a report for the subcommittee, wrote Linda Koontz, director of information management issues.

Koontz also reported to Davis that GSA is taking steps to address several issues brought up by GAO in the June hearing. This includes setting up high-level meetings with the MAA contractors to improve communication and resolve vendor concerns; and developing a way to provide implementation status information, something GAO believes "would be a useful management tool."

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