WT Business Beat

By Nick Wakeman

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AT&T might have second shot at $500 million SSA contract

AT&T might be back in the running for a Social Security Administration contract worth more than $500 million.

The Government Accountability Office has agreed with AT&T’s argument that Verizon has an unmitigated conflict of interest and shouldn’t be awarded the contract to support the Next Generation Telephony Project.

Verizon also holds the contract for Scanjet and part of the work under the Next Generation contract includes evaluating the Scanjet. Part of the Next Generation contract calls on the winning contractor to report on problems with Scanjet that will impact the performance of the Next Generation Telephony Project.

The Next Generation Telephony Project will combine three legacy telephone systems into a single requirement. These include the headquarters system, the telephone system replacement project and the national 800 number network.

The Scanjet carries all of the agency’s data, video and voice traffic that enable those systems to work. So spotting problems or shortcomings with SSNet is critical to the success of the Next Generation Telephony Project.

AT&T warned Social Security about the conflict after Verizon when the Scanjet contract and that led SSA to amend the solicitation for the Next Generation Telephony Project to require bidders identify potential conflicts and to propose a plan to mitigate any conflicts of interest.

While SSA amended the solicitation, it also investigated whether Verizon had a conflict of interest. The contracting officer who reviewed AT&T’s allegation said there was no conflict of interest. He ruled that the Next Generation Telephony Project contractor wasn’t going to be supervising Verizon on the Scanjet contract.

But GAO disagreed because while the Next Generation Telephony Project contract is entirely dedicated to monitoring Scanjet, it does require the contractor to assess the performance of Scanjet with regard to its impact on the Next Generation Telephony Project.

GAO said it was unreasonable to conclude that Verizon didn’t have a conflict.

But GAO stopped short of agreeing with AT&T completely. AT&T argued that Verizon’s conflict should disqualify it from bidding on the Next Generation Telephony Project contract.

Instead GAO has told SSA to investigate the potential conflict and create a mitigation plan. It also has to document the investigation.

Things are a little nebulous at this point as far as the impact on AT&T. A lot depends on what SSA does from here.

It could conduct its investigation create a mitigation plan that allows Verizon to keep the contract. If that happens look for AT&T to file another protest.

Another scenario would be that SSA decides to take the contract away from Verizon after determining that it does have a conflict of interest problem. This would likely lead to Verizon filing a protest.

There also was a third unnamed bidder, so maybe that company get the contract and we see AT&T and Verizon both filing protests.

We’ll have to watch and see.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Sep 08, 2020 at 9:39 AM

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