Telecommunications:

GSA Action Needs to Realize Benefits of Metropolitan Area Acquisition Program

GAO-02-325: Published: Apr 4, 2002. Publicly Released: May 6, 2002.

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The Metropolitan Area Acquisition (MAA) program provides local telecommunications services to federal agencies in certain U.S. cities. The General Services Administration (GSA) began the program in 1997 to achieve immediate, substantial, and sustained price reductions for local telecommunications for agencies; to expand their choices of high-quality services; and to encourage cross-agency sharing of resources. Service providers that are awarded contracts under the program are allowed to compete for GSA's FTS2001 long distance service contracts, so that federal agencies may potentially acquire end-to-end local and long distance telecommunications services from one source. Only five of the 19 metropolitan areas that were scheduled to switch from existing services to MAA services by or before March 2002 have done so. Although the program was intended to take advantage of emerging competition in the local telecommunications market, it has been beset by implementation challenges, including access and use of building riser cabling, the transfer of local numbers between service providers, and a contractor's financial problems. On top of the cost of the contract services, GSA charges customer agencies fees that range from about nine to 97 percent or from $1.20 to $8.49 per line per month. Because GSA does not disclose its management fees unless asked, customer agencies do not necessarily have complete information to help them determine whether using GSA's full range of services is their most cost-effective approach. As of March 2002, GSA has allowed its MAA and FTS2001 contractors to offer services in both the local and long distance markets, a process termed "crossover."

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In response to GAO's recommendation, GSA now posts information for the benefit of its customer agencies on its website that discloses the fees GSA charges those agencies for its services, both in terms of a percentage of the cost of service or features, and in terms of an average dollar amount per telephone line. As a result of this action, agency decisionmakers now have the information they need to make well-informed business decisions whether to acquire local telecommunications services through GSA or to obtain those services from alternate sources.

    Recommendation: To assist federal agencies in making well-informed telecommunications choices and to improve management of the General Services Administration's (GSA) own support services, the administrator should direct the commissioner of FTS to routinely disclose to MAA customers the fees that GSA charges them for managing the MAA contracts and for the ordering and billing services it provides.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Based on documentation provided by GSA personnel, it has developed the following four Metropolitan Area Acquisition performance measures: (1) order process time; (2) estimated cost savings; (3) implementation progress; and (4) timeliness of contract modifications. GSA created these performance measures to track and report the progress and management of its program.

    Recommendation: To improve MAA program administration, the administrator of General Services should direct the commissioner of FTS to use these objectives to develop and apply reliable performance measures to gauge MAA progress and manage implementations.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Based on documentation provided by GSA personnel, it has developed city-specific and nationwide goals for transitioning existing FTS customers to the Metropolitan Area Acquisition program.

    Recommendation: To improve Metropolitan Area Acquisition (MAA) program administration, the administrator of General Services should direct the commissioner of the Federal Technology Service (FTS) to develop current, realistic timeline objectives and schedules for expeditiously completing those MAA contract implementations that are currently in progress.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: GSA responded to GAO's recommendation by posting information on its website that clarifies for its MAA customers all of the value-added services it provides for its customers in return for the fees that it charges them to administer these contracts. As a result of this action, agency decisionmakers now have the information they need to make well-informed decisions as to whether the MAA contract administration services provided by GSA are commensurate with the fees it charges agencies for those services.

    Recommendation: To assist federal agencies in making well-informed telecommunications choices and to improve management of GSA's own support services, the administrator should direct the commissioner of FTS to clarify for MAA customers the services that each of the fees supports.

    Agency Affected: General Services Administration

 

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