Report: Poor management may be hurting GSA's customers

Some General Services Administration’s customer agencies may not be getting top-of-the-line service in the Pacific Rim Region because it’s struggling internally with inventories and training, according to a new report.

The Network Services Division (NSD) of the Pacific Rim Region, which is under the Federal Acquisition Service umbrella, keeps an inventory of recurring telecommunications services that it provides to customers, but officials cannot prove the data is accurate, the GSA inspector general reported in an audit dated May 30.

Because of that, nearly a third of the customer base is affected by errors in the inventory, auditors found.

NSD lacks inventory controls and procedures for administering contracts. The IG’s audit found the primary reason for the deficiencies is that officials don’t update and then validate their sales transactions that go into the Telecommunications Operating and Payment System (TOPS).

As a result, some customer agencies may be paying for terminated telecommunication services while others may be paying higher prices under tariff agreements for services that are already available under the lower priced local services contracts, according to the report. The tariff agreements offer the same services but come with a high rate for usage.

The auditors too were unable to determine how managers monitored the 1,200 customer orders billed under tariff agreements as of June 30, 2011. In California, agencies in federal buildings in cities, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco, have access to lower priced telecommunications services through local services contracts. Nevertheless, NSD managers used tariff agreements for 30 such customer agencies in L.A. and 29 in San Francisco.

“These controls also serve as a first line of defense in safeguarding assets and preventing and detecting errors and fraud,” auditors wrote in the report.

The audit also found that contracting officer’s representatives (CORs) in the NSD aren’t meeting continuing education requirements, as regulations stipulate. NSD officials said they were developing ways to meet the minimum training standards. However, the plan wasn’t finished when the auditors did their review.

The IG recommended a comprehensive review of the inventory and written procedures for monitoring it going forward. They also recommended having CORs continue their education, and having managers justify their decisions to use tariff agreements to provide telecommunications services to customers.

GSA’s Pacific Rim Region officials agreed with the audit’s recommendations and have started work to address the management concerns, according to an accompanying letter.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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