GSA considers debarring Sprint

Sprint Corp. officials are expressing outrage over a recommendation by the General Services Administration's inspector general that the telecom company be considered for debarment.

The move comes just a week after the IG proposed debarment for Sprint competitor WorldCom Inc.

The action against Sprint is based on its June settlement of a whistleblower lawsuit, which alleged the company had overcharged the government for long-distance services under the FTS-2001 contract.

Sprint paid $5.2 million and withdrew another $339,000 in charges in response to a lawsuit that claimed the company knowingly had overcharged for presubscribed interexchange carrier fees.

These are the fees long-distance companies pay to local carriers to recover some of the costs of facilities that link phone customers to the network.

In the settlement, Sprint did not admit wrongdoing and characterized the matter as a billing dispute.

Neither Mary Alice Johnson of GSA public affairs nor Jack Lebo, a spokesman for the IG's office, would confirm or deny the reported recommendation.

In a prepared statement, Howard Janzen, president of Sprint's Global Markets Group, denounced the inspector general's reported recommendation.

"Debarment is appropriate when a party is shown to lack the requisite business integrity to continue as a government contractor," Janzen said. "Sprint has always been associated with the highest ethical standards, and we resent even the suggestion that debarment should be considered."

Steve Lunceford, a spokesman for Sprint's government services unit, was more blunt.

"We think this is outrageous to link the settled billing error to more than $11 billion in fraud that was perpetuated by MCI," he said.

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