Congressman increases scrutiny of MAA delays

Congressman increases scrutiny of MAA delays

BY WILLIAM JACKSON | GCN STAFF

Rep. Tom Davis is holding the General Services Administration's feet to the fire.

The Virginia Republican and chairman of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Technology and Procurement Policy has scheduled a June 13 hearing on what he considers GSA's foot-dragging on competitive local telephone service.

The congressman also has requested a General Accounting Office review of GSA's Metropolitan Area Acquisitions.

The MAA program, part of GSA's strategy for competitive end-to-end telephone service, gives federal offices in 20 metropolitan areas a choice of local carriers.

Although GSA has awarded 37 MAA contracts, Davis wrote in an April 6 letter to GAO that he is 'concerned with GSA's efforts to implement these contracts, how the contracts are being managed, as well as the MAA program relationship to FTS 2001 and the ability of contractors to cross over between the two contracts.'

A hearing last month before the same panel [GCN, May 7, Page 8] focused on transition delays on GSA's FTS 2001 long-distance communications contracts. GSA's Federal Technology Service manages both MAA and FTS 2001.

Sprint Corp. and WorldCom Inc., the FTS 2001 contractors, are each guaranteed at least $750 million. GSA wants to let FTS 2001 and MAA vendors work under both programs, creating a single, competitive local and long-distance market.

FTS commissioner Sandra Bates has said the first crossovers could happen this year.

Playing under protest

AT&T Corp., which was an FTS 2000 contractor but was unsuccessful in bidding on FTS 2001, has protested the new contracts, claiming that changes GSA made during the prolonged transition have invalidated them. AT&T also holds several MAA contracts and has not been allowed to cross over to FTS 2001.

At last month's hearing, Davis characterized the FTS 2001 program goals as 'in jeopardy' because the transition is taking more than a year longer than anticipated. The latest deadline for agencies to move from the old FTS 2000 contracts was Dec. 6, but Bates said the move would not be complete until next month.

Although the transition has not been completed on time, the two largest FTS customers, the Defense and Treasury departments, have moved to the new contracts, and the transition is about 95 percent complete. Bates testified that delays have cost the government $76 million in higher rates. But GSA also has said the new contracts saved taxpayers $150 million in fiscal 2000 and will save $250 million this fiscal year.

Davis remained doubtful about MAA's prospects.

'I have serious concerns about the MAA program, the status of that transition, the fees charged by GSA and the impact on crossover,' he said.

GSA awarded MAA contracts two years ago to AT&T for agency users located in Chicago, New York and San Francisco. Since then, 17 more metropolitan areas have been added, and the total potential value of the contracts is $4.1 billion. GSA has estimated the government could save more than $1 billion in local phone costs over the life of the program. The agency has seven more MAAs in the works.

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