VA’s EIS Telecom Transition Starts With New Accounting Platform

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The agency is looking to buy a holistic financial management system to manage as much as $445 million in telecom spending a year.

Federal agencies have until the end of the fiscal year to award contracts to obtain and modernize telecommunication services but at least one agency wants to make sure it gets the financials and accounting right through the transition.

As the current governmentwide Networx contract is set to expire, agencies have to move to the General Services Administration’s $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Services, or EIS, contract by the end of September. In preparation for this move, the Veterans Affairs Department is looking to contract for an enterprise Telecommunications Expense Management Solution, or eTEMS, to ensure its accounting stays on track.

“This solution will additionally standardize service ordering and delivery, streamline invoice and payment processing, enforce corporate policies and provide customizable reporting and business analytics,” according to a solicitation released Monday.

The VA spends some $265 million a year for telecom services, including $225 million for about 2,200 hardline connections.

Those expenses are paid through 15,000 invoices annually, paying down some 500,000 line items currently pegged to the expiring Networx contract. Once transitioned, those line items—and, potentially, more—will be under the VA National Local Exchange Carrier, or NLEC, contract, one of several EIS task orders expected from VA this year.

“As the VA looks to leverage on this investment, eTEMS is a critical component of the VA’s IT approach to maximizing the customer experience and providing seamless telecommunication management services to our employees and veterans,” contracting officers wrote.

VA officials want a “fully automated and web-based” software-as-a-service system that will give a holistic view of the agency’s telecom expenses “through a ‘single pane of glass’” user interface.

To ensure the quality of the new eTEMS system, VA is requesting a preliminary beta version from the winning contractors within 120 days, which will then be refined through user testing and feedback. Safeguards are also built into the structure of the contract, which includes a one-year base period and 14 optional one-year add-ons.

Potential solutions must also be able to integrate with the ServiceNow platform, which VA uses to manage all of its IT services.

The contract will be structured in such a way that the service provider bills VA monthly for a percentage of finances managed through the system. For example, officials expect about $60 million worth of spending to flow through the eTEMS system in the first year. If the winning vendor establishes a rate of 1 percent, the cost to VA would be $600,000 a year, or $50,000 billed monthly.

That total is expected to double to $120 million in year two, rise to $180 million in year three, $240 million by year four and reach $300 million by year five.

The growth in funding managed through the system is expected to slow after that, with an estimated $312 million in spending flowing through the system in year six, $325 million in year seven, and so on. If all 14 options are used, the final year could have up to $445 million managed through the system, with the contractor taking a fixed percentage in fees.

VA expects to make a single award based on four evaluation factors with different weighting attached.

“The Technical Factor is significantly more important than the Past Performance Factor, which is significantly more important than the Price Factor which is slightly more important than the Veterans Involvement Factor,” according to the solicitation.

The solicitation also includes seven optional tasks that cover various aspects of VA’s modernization goals. These tasks can be integrated into the contractor’s solution, if possible, or left for another vendor to work on. These tasks include developing additional training materials and managing the transition from the current accounting system.

Questions should be submitted by 9 a.m. May 20. Bids are due by June 3.