Watchdog: Poor Oversight Put GSA’s $50B Telecom Transition Over Schedule, Over Budget
The agency hired contractors to help with a smooth transition but ended up spending lots of money for little movement.
From the beginning, messaging around the General Services Administration’s big shift to the next generation, $50 billion Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions telecom contract has been about preparing agencies for the transition. According to a new inspector general report, that transition isn’t going as planned, and a lack of oversight has led to “high rates of spending with minimal transition progress.”
The governmentwide transition is being supported by a vendor through the Transition Ordering Assistance contract, which, according to a tip through the IG hotline, has had little oversight from GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service.
“During the Acquisition Planning Phase, FAS was incurring a high rate of spending with no way to ascertain whether the contractor’s work advanced transition progress,” the report states. “The rate of TOA task order spending during the first quarter of fiscal year 2018 showed that FAS was on track to prematurely exhaust its budget,” set at around $17 million, “with minimal transition progress.”
These issues resulted in an extension of the transition deadline—something FAS officials had been trying to avoid since the beginning—and significantly higher costs, which could have been avoided.
FAS officials were well aware that the transition to EIS would be difficult, as they learned during the transition to Networx, which was almost three years over schedule and $400 million over budget. The TOA task order was intended to alleviate those issues this time around by helping agencies figure out what they needed from a new telecom contract, write the EIS solicitations and pick a contractor.
The IG identified two major issues with oversight of the contract: a lack of tangible, interagency agreements between FAS, the contractor and the customer agencies; and about $675,000-worth of contract employees who were unable to get the required security clearances.
“Because of ineffective task order management, FAS assumed unnecessary risk that led to the inefficient use of taxpayer dollars,” IG auditors wrote. Officials told auditors that FAS would be implementing additional internal controls, however, “Based on the scope of our audit, we cannot attest to the effectiveness of FAS’s strengthened internal controls related to the administration of the TOA task order.”
Further, FAS did not have any metrics tying invoices to actual work accomplished.
As problems arose, FAS officials shifted their own staff to support the transition work.
“However, this required FAS to pay for TOA support while also using its own employees to produce deliverables required by the task order,” the IG noted. “The government effectively double paid for the deliverables required under the TOA task order.”
Ultimately, the IG made six recommendations:
- Establish a measurement to align budget consumed to work completed.
- Develop standard operating procedures to guide the performance of the TOA task order. At a minimum, these procedures should require the inclusion of a readiness assessment and a schedule of deliverables into future interagency agreements with each customer agency.
- Modify and enforce interagency agreements to ensure the contracting officer’s representative receives the information necessary to monitor contractor performance and enforce the Quality Assurance Surveillance Plan.
- Determine if modifications to the task order are necessary to address:
- Key personnel in the performance of the TOA task order; and
- Circumstances under which the TOA contractor must charge onsite rates.
- Seek monetary recoveries associated with unqualified contract employees and improperly approved travel claims, and strengthen controls to ensure future compliance with task order provisions.
- Establish a standard invoice review process to ensure:
- Invoices are reviewed in a comprehensive and consistent manner; and
- Contracting personnel only approve invoices for payment that are supported by appropriate documentation.
FAS Commissioner Alan Thomas agreed with all six recommendations.