SSA has troubles with VOIP contract, IG says

VOIP initially took 197 days to install, may have harmed customer service

The Social Security Administration’s voice-over-IP installations in its initial 192 field offices had problems that included long installation times, incorrect invoices, overpayments and possibly poorer customer service, according to a new report from SSA Inspector General Patrick O’Carroll Jr.

For example, the average time for achieving successful VOIP performance and functionality initially was 197 days in October 2008, which remained high for several months before dropping to 46 days in April 2009, the audit issued Dec. 28 said.

Also, VOIP might have affected customers’ satisfaction.

“Although SSA achieved VOIP functionality and performance, when we attempted to contact sampled field offices where VOIP had been installed, we encountered long wait times, disconnected or dropped calls, poor sound quality, and difficulty when navigating the telephone menu tree,” O’Carroll wrote. In addition, four of five field offices contacted said they had received negative comments from customers, he said.


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However, after his review, the agency provided additional information on the effect of VOIP on customer service, and O’Carroll said he decided not to perform an additional review of customer service.

SSA contracted with Nortel Government Solutions Inc. in 2007 to replace existing telephone systems and install VOIP agencywide, including in 10 regional offices, six processing centers, an automated test facility, a voice network operations center and 1,565 field offices. Nortel later was acquired by Avaya Government Solutions Inc., the current vendor.

The audit found that Nortel generally lived up to the contract terms, except for several instances in which the company received payment for VOIP equipment that was either not ordered or ordered but not installed. The audit also found that SSA generally provided oversight except that it did not account for all inventory and made several overpayments.

The report recommended that SSA:

  • Continue to conduct VOIP inventories and reconcile with task orders.
  • Continue to require reconciliation of ordered and installed quantities as a condition of payment to the contractor.
  • Account for VOIP equipment and software in a property management inventory system.
  • Seek recovery from Nortel of approximately $60,000.
  • Deal with customer service issues with Nortel.
  • Continue to implement security controls as needed.

SSA officials agreed with the recommendations and is dealing with them, the report said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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