GSA to Make Changes to Boost MAA Performance

GSA to Make Changes to Boost MAA Performance

Sandra Bates

The General Services Administration is moving to fix problems in the much criticized Metropolitan Area Acquisition telecommunications program, but the telecom companies holding MAA contracts also need to improve their performance, said Sandra Bates, commissioner of the agency's Federal Technology Service.

The transition to the MAA contracts for local telecommunications services is progressing much slower than planned, raising doubts that the eight-year program will generate the anticipated $1 billion or more in savings envisioned when it was started more than two years ago.

To improve GSA's management of the program, Bates told Washington Technology the agency would step up its briefings on the progress of individual MAA contracts to the Interagency Management Council, the group which helped shepherd the transition of long-distance services under the FTS2001 contract.

Bates also said the agency would begin to work with the federal executive boards based locally around the country to gather information about local communication needs and identify challenges.

Because telecom vendors have complained that GSA is charging excessive fees for managing the MAA contracts, the GSA will change its marketing program to better explain that fees are included in the prices paid to contractors under the MAA program, and to educate agencies on the value the agency adds to their contracts.

GSA's actions come in response to complaints from industry and lawmakers made at a June 13 hearing of the House Government Reform subcommittee on technology and procurement policy on the MAA program. Testifying at the hearing were executives from AT&T Corp., Winstar Communications Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., all of New York; Qwest Communications International Inc., Denver; and BellSouth Corp., Atlanta.

While acknowledging agency shortcomings, Bates said that telecom vendors share in the blame for the slow pace of transition, such as failing to meet their own schedules and not providing sufficient manpower to carry out the work.

"Our industry partners need to do better themselves," she said in an interview following the hearing.

Bates also characterized industry complaints as posturing, saying it is easier to call attention to the GSA's alleged shortcomings than to discuss the companies' own problems with making the transition.

"This is a labor-intensive effort," she said. "Certainly, the companies are capable of doing it if they will dedicate the resources."
























































































































































Percentage of GSA Local Telecommunications Users Converted to MAA Services as of June 1
Metro AreaAwardNotice to Proceed% ChangedContract Holder(s)
New York5/20/997/18/9911.74 percentAT&T Corp., Verizon Communications Inc.*
Chicago5/20/997/15/9942.92AT&T Corp.
San Francisco5/20/997/19/9965.76AT&T Corp.
Buffalo2/24/006/15/00100.0Verizon Communications Inc., AT&T
Cincinnati3/23/007/14/00100.0Winstar Communications Inc.
Cleveland3/24/007/6/000.0Ameritech, AT&T
Los Angeles3/24/007/14/0013.54Winstar, Pacific Bell
Baltimore3/28/006/29/007.01Winstar
Atlanta4/26/006/29/000.10Winstar, BellSouth
Miami4/26/006/29/000.0Winstar, BellSouth
Indianapolis4/27/007/6/001.20Winstar, AT&T, SBC Communications Inc.
St. Louis4/27/008/17/0016.49Winstar, Southwestern Bell Telephone Co.
Minneapolis5/31/009/19/0084.7Qwest Communications Intl. Inc., Winstar
Dallas6/30/009/11-22/0028.22Southwestern Bell, Winstar, AT&T
Denver7/12/009/13/0028.59AT&T, Qwest, Winstar
Boston7/31/009/12/005.43AT&T, Southwestern Bell, Winstar, Verizon
Albuquerque8/31/0010/3/000.0Qwest
Boise8/31/002/23/010.0Qwest
New Orleans10/16/0011/9/0075.64BellSouth
Philadelphia2/27/01none to date0.0AT&T, Winstar
*Verizon was added to the New York contract March 30, 2001
Source: General Accounting Office



The flap over fees charged by GSA and supposedly hidden in the MAA contracts is a non-issue, Bates said.

"I think the rates [issue] took on more attention and time than it deserved" at the hearing, Bates said. "The fact that we're fee-for-service is known. We have to cover our costs."

Providing agencies with one set of rates that includes both contractor charges and GSA fees, was meant to encourage them to concentrate on the bottom-line price, she said.

"I don't care what Nordstrom's markup is compared to Lord & Taylor's. It's the price I'm going to pay that counts," Bates said.

Of the 20 cities where MAA contracts have been issued, only two have completed the transition, according to testimony by the General Accounting Office.

None of the three cities from the pilot phase of the program ? New York, Chicago and San Francisco, where contracts were awarded in May 1999 ? have completed the transition.

San Francisco has reached about 66 percent, while Chicago has reached about 43 percent. New York has completed less than 12 percent of its transition.

John Doherty, vice president of government markets for AT&T, said at the hearing that the transition has been hindered by several issues, including uncooperative local exchange carriers and continuing use of higher-priced legacy contracts, as well as GSA's poor management.

New York-based AT&T holds 10 MAA contracts, including the three pilot cities.

Bates said she is confident the MAA program will result in significant savings for the federal government on its local telecom services. The difficulties in making the changeover are mostly a microcosm of the changes taking place in the broader telecommunications market, she said.

"I think we're playing out in the MAAs some of the larger issues in the telecom industry," Bates said. The government piece of the market is minuscule in dollar terms, she said, but it is important in demonstrating the effects of deregulation.

The next step in the federal telecom plan will be interesting, Bates said. That is when the long distance contract, FTS2001, is opened up to MAA contract holders. A draft proposal for crossover, as the agency terms it, was to be unveiled to company representatives June 28.

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