GAO washes hands of DREN, punts decision on WorldCom contract

The General Accounting Office has dismissed protests of a controversial networking contract award to WorldCom Inc., deciding it should not get caught up in the legal maneuvers surrounding WorldCom's alleged financial misconduct and other potential legal woes.

The governmental watchdog agency decided "the totality of circumstances make it inappropriate ... to review this matter." The decision was released Oct. 9.

The protests were filed in July by Sprint Communications Corp. of Westwood, Kan., and Global Crossing Ltd. of Bermuda over the April 4 award to WorldCom of the Defense Research and Engineering Network contract, called DREN.

Under the 10-year, $450 million contract, WorldCom will provide telecommunications services to more than 6,000 scientists and engineers at Defense Department laboratories, test centers, universities and industrial sites.

On the heels of WorldCom's filing for bankruptcy protection June 25, Global Crossing and Sprint argued that WorldCom had materially misrepresented its financial condition during the evaluation process, which contributed to DISA's selection.

GAO agreed with those allegations, but said "it appears that the agency had no knowledge of the inaccuracies in WorldCom's financial statements until after award, thus making this matter more one of contract administration ... rather than a protest of the agency's award decision."

GAO also said DISA has its own authority to address the alleged improprieties and suggested the agency "may wish to consider whether it needs to take further action to protect the government's interests in connection with this procurement." *

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