Oversight

Watchdog calls out EIS risks

Telecom VOIP Switch - Shutterstock 

The group in charge of running the General Services Administration's 15-year, $50 billion next-generation telecommunications contract failed to adequately prepare agencies to move over to the contract, according to an inspector general's report.

The Federal Acquisition Service spent $9 million to help customer agencies out with support services in their transition to its Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions telecommunications contract, but it failed to ensure key interagency agreements were in place, according to a Jan. 12 audit memorandum from GSA's IG to FAS Commissioner Alan Thomas.

Without those agreements, FAS assumes and unnecessary degree of risk, "which may lead to ineffective contract management and transition delays."

FAS and GSA are painfully aware of how delays affect transitioning to new telecommunications contracts. The last big telecommunications contracts GSA issued, Networx, took six years and cost millions to get right.

GSA officials acknowledged the lack of interagency agreements posed a risk and accepted the agreements were good business practices, according to the IG memo. However, officials moved ahead without them in order to meet transition deadlines.

GSA has been looking to get agencies transitioned in three years to EIS. It has been working for the last couple of years, even before the $50 billion contract was awarded, to get agencies prepared for the complex move from their old telecommunications facilities to new ones.

According to the IG, FAS may be moving a little too fast.

The watchdog said although FAS's Office of Network Services Programs awarded the Transition Ordering Assistance task order in September 2016 to support federal agencies as they transition to EIS from the expiring Networx contracts, it was skipping a step.

Contractors are responsible for providing consulting services to assist transitioning agencies in procurement decisions and EIS ordering. FAS has provided nearly $9 million in support services to agencies under the transition task order without interagency agreements in place, it said.

"As a result, FAS is at risk for disputes over contract oversight responsibilities, which may lead to waste of taxpayer dollars and delays in the EIS transition," said the IG.

The IG said the agency's Office of General Counsel and Office of the Chief Financial Officer are continuing to work the terms and conditions of the interagency agreements. 

FAS told the IG that it intends to have agencies execute signed interagency agreements for transition assistance by Jan. 31, 2018. EIS is set to go live by 2020.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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