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Inspector General Finds FirstNet Released a Payment Before AT&T Hit a Milestone

WB3DYE

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A Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit found that the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) did not comply with the terms of the nationwide public-safety broadband network (NPSBN) contract prior to approving a $336 million payment to AT&T, the contractor.


 

RFI-EMI-GUY

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That is unacceptable. To make a complete milestone payment without consideration of a missed milestone is indicative of mismanagement. They should not have paid, or at least should have withheld a portion commensurate with the work yet to be performed.
 

flythunderbird

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That is unacceptable. To make a complete milestone payment without consideration of a missed milestone is indicative of mismanagement. They should not have paid, or at least should have withheld a portion commensurate with the work yet to be performed.
Exactly. This lies entirely at the feet of the agency's contracting officer, who is the only person with legal authority to issue the payment. Hopefully, the contracting officer will be reprimanded.
 

davidsbmw628

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Exactly. This lies entirely at the feet of the agency's contracting officer, who is the only person with legal authority to issue the payment. Hopefully, the contracting officer will be reprimanded.
The contracting officer can and often does delegate (limited) authority to Contracting Officer Representatives (COR's) who in most cases can, or very often does directly approve contractor (read here as : AT&T) invoices in the financial services system during a contracts period of performance. I don't know what type of contract this is (i.e. Firm Fixed Price, Cost reimbursement, time and materials etc.) but assuming a payment was made early without completing the full milestone leads me the beleive a delegated COR approved the invoice or payment request prematurely in the financial services system without fully monitoring and ensuring that the milestone work was completed. The government always has a way to re-coop the payment if it was misappropriated or inappropriately paid out before the government received the deliverables. And, the COR in cases like this will be held administratively responsible.

1.604 Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR). | Acquisition.GOV

1.604 Contracting Officer’s Representative (COR).
A contracting officer’s representative (COR) assists in the technical monitoring or administration of a contract (see 1.602-2 (d)). The COR shall maintain a file for each assigned contract. The file must include, at a minimum–
(a) A copy of the contracting officer’s letter of designation and other documents describing the COR’s duties and responsibilities;
(b) A copy of the contract administration functions delegated to a contract administration office which may not be delegated to the COR (see 1.602-2(d)(4)); and
(c) Documentation of COR actions taken in accordance with the delegation of authority.


Parent topic: Subpart 1.6 - Career Development, Contracting Authority, and Responsibilities


Personal Disclaimer: I do work in the fed govt acquisitions field and have "previously" held a position as a 1102 series warranted contracting officer (CO). I also want to say I don't fully know all the details of this particular contract award and its current terms and conditions. I also don't work for this agency in the news article.
 

flythunderbird

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assuming a payment was made early without completing the full milestone leads me the beleive a delegated COR approved the invoice or payment request prematurely in the financial services system without fully monitoring and ensuring that the milestone work was completed. The government always has a way to re-coop the payment if it was misappropriated or inappropriately paid out before the government received the deliverables. And, the COR in cases like this will be held administratively responsible.
Hi David,

I currently work in government procurement as an 1102 and have been for close to ten years. I agree with your assessment that the COR did not do his/her job making sure that the milestones were satisfied prior to payment being issued. We both know that only the CO has the legal authority to bind the government in a contract, which also means that the CO bears a measure of responsibility on the government's end - especially given the size of this payment ($336 million) and the overall size/scope/visibility of this contract. My procurement office would never allow a COR to approve a $336 million payment without (at a minimum) submitting proof to the CO that the milestones were met prior to payment being made - too much of a chance of a public "black eye," which is exactly what happened here.

In the past, people in my procurement office have been disciplined for less of a public black eye than this. We've even gone so far as to replace CORs and COs on contracts when improper behavior occurred.
 

davidsbmw628

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My procurement office would never allow a COR to approve a $336 million payment without (at a minimum) submitting proof to the CO that the milestones were met prior to payment being made - too much of a chance of a public "black eye," which is exactly what happened here.

In the past, people in my procurement office have been disciplined for less of a public black eye than this. We've even gone so far as to replace CORs and COs on contracts when improper behavior occurred.

Agreed, and great points! We always wrote the "trigger" (i.e dollar) thresholds into our COR letter of delegation to indicate when the COR would have to also include the CO for concurrence on higher dollar tasks and deliverables. I was laughing when I read this because as you also know this will, or already has gotten very messy for the procurement office involved (i.e. managers, team leads and CO). These are the very reasons after 9 years as an 1102 I was so thankful to promote out of the series and into the senior project manager side of the house now.....if you know what i mean :)
 
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