OPM blinks, revisits USAJobs buy

Recruitment One-Stop time line

  • January 2003 OPM awards Monster Government Solutions a 10-year, $62 million contract to renovate the USAJobs site. Symplicity protests the award to GAO, questioning OPM's evaluation process.

  • April 2003 GAO rules that OPM did not fairly review bids and recommends reopening the buy.

  • May 2003 OPM appeals the decision, but GAO denies the appeal.

  • July 2003 The agency moves ahead with plans for the site despite GAO's ruling because it would be 'incompatible with the best interest of the federal government.'

  • August 2003 OPM launches an overhauled USAJobs portal. GAO sends letters to the House Government Reform, House Appropriations, Senate Governmental Affairs and Senate Appropriations committees detailing OPM's decision to buck the audit agency's ruling.

  • November 2003 OPM tells Monster it won't renew contract but awards the company a bridge deal through September. Rep. Tom Davis pledges to withhold project funding if the agency does not recompete the deal.

  • March 2004 Agency issues request for information on approaches and technologies available for upgrading the site.
  • Rep. Tom Davis reportedly threatened to withhold funding for Recruitment One-Stop if OPM didn't recompete the jobs portal contract.

    Steve Barrett

    After repeatedly ignoring the General Accounting Office's recommendations that it reopen its procurement for the Recruitment One-Stop project, the Office of Personnel Management finally got the message from Congress.

    Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the Government Reform Committee, told agency officials if they didn't recompete the contract, OPM would face the loss of project funding, two industry sources said.

    Confronted with this possibility, OPM, which manages the Quicksilver e-government project, late last month released a new request for information for Recruitment One-Stop. The agency is once again asking vendors for ways to improve the federal jobs portal. It will review the submissions and decide by June whether to issue a new request for proposals or to renew a four-year option with the current contractor, Monster Government Solutions of Maynard, Mass.

    GAO twice last year ruled that OPM had not conducted a fair procurement for the Web site overhaul, at www.usajobs.opm.gov, when it awarded Monster a 10-year contract.

    The audit agency upheld a bid protest from losing bidder Symplicity Corp. of Arlington, Va., and then denied the agency's appeal. The contract could be worth as much as $62 million if all options are exercised. The initial contract had a one-year base with a four-year and a five-year option.

    But OPM officials opted to disregard GAO's conclusions and continue working with Monster'spending more than $9 million to overhaul and add functionality to the site.

    In several meetings that included Davis, committee staff members and OPM officials'even OPM director Kay Coles James'Davis urged OPM to revisit the procurement, said David Marin, committee spokesman. Marin, though, would not confirm that Davis threatened the project's funding.

    'Chairman Davis remains convinced that OPM ignored the GAO protest, and he thinks that was inappropriate,' Marin said. 'Our position is very clear to OPM. We will monitor the RFI process and continue to keep a close eye on it as it unfolds.'

    Davis hopes the RFI is the first step toward a formal recompetition, which is the only way for the flawed buy to be remedied, Marin said.

    OPM's failure to comply with GAO's decision jeopardized the carefully balanced protest process set up by Congress, Marin said.

    A Symplicity spokesman said the company is looking forward to OPM reopening the USAJobs procurement.

    Although OPM general counsel Mark A. Robbins would not discuss the possible withholding of project funding by Congress, he acknowledged there was concern on Capitol Hill about the program. But, he said, that was not the reason OPM released the RFI.

    On the line

    'Director James pledged to the Hill that we would not automatically renew the option, and we would go through the process of finding out what technologies are out there,' Robbins said. 'She thought this would address [lawmakers'] concerns. We would have been doing this regardless of what happened last year.'

    But industry sources said Davis' frustration grew out of OPM's reluctance to heed GAO's recommendations, which led him to warn the agency that the project's funding could be on the line.

    OPM officials told Monster last November they would not automatically renew the option, said Brent Pearson, general manager for Monster Government Solutions. The base contract held by Monster expired in January, and OPM officials extended it through September.

    Pearson said OPM officials told him of their plans to issue an RFI a week before it came out.

    'OPM still is getting a lot of heat from the GAO protest, and I guess this is their way of doing their due diligence,' Pearson said. 'We feel fairly comfortable because we know we are performing well under the contract.'

    Responses to the RFI are due April 26. Robbins said OPM will review responses for about a month.
    By June 15, OPM will exercise Monster's option or issue a new request for proposals. If the agency releases an RFP, Robbins said a new contract should be in place by Sept. 30.

    'With the state of technology ever-changing, we didn't want to get locked into a multiyear situation where we are stuck with a technological dinosaur,' Robbins said. 'We are extremely pleased with the project.'


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