GSA still considering suspending MCI

The General Services Administration is still considering suspending MCI from federal contracts, continuing a process that began a month ago. MCI, which admitted to accounting fraud last year, said it is cooperating with GSA's requests for information.

In a conference call today, GSA officials emphasized that suspension and debarment proceedings are not punitive acts. The agency has received requests from public interest groups and most recently from Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) to suspend the telecom provider because of alleged legal and ethical lapses.

GSA general counsel Raymond McKenna said, however, if MCI is determined to be suitable for agencies to hire now, GSA cannot suspend the company as punishment for past actions.

"GSA's role, any agency's role, is to protect the government's interests," he said. "In that regard, GSA's role is not that of an investigative agency and certainly not that of a prosecutor."

"We don't go out and investigate and find malfeasance," said David Drabkin, deputy associate administrator of GSA's Office of Acquisition Policy. "We typically wait for a referral."

In this case GSA's inspector general last month requested the agency consider the suspension, McKenna said. GSA has requested information from agencies regarding their experiences with MCI and their impact from a potential MCI suspension.

Suspension would block MCI from signing new contracts with agencies for a specified period. Defense agencies would not be able to file new task or delivery orders under existing contracts. Civilian agencies, which have different rules, could issue new orders under existing contracts.

MCI spokeswoman Natasha Haubold noted that since admitting to overstating profits by more than $9 billion, MCI has replaced its top executives, its board of directors, enacted a new ethics policy and taken other measures to prevent a recurrence.

"We are being very proactive internally to make sure that what happened in the past doesn't happen again," she said.

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