Guam Agencies Have History Of Service Provider Problems

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Pacific Data Systems ‘fell short’ of contract expectations

By Gaynor Dumat-ol Daleno

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, May 8, 2013) – Several local government entities on Guam have experienced problems with an Internet and phone service provider during the past couple of years.

And while some agencies canceled contracts or purchase orders when the delivery and level of service fell short, others allowed the service to continue past deadlines to fully deliver the service, documents state.

Guam Community College (GCC) is one of the entities that decided to cancel its contract with Pacific Data Systems (PDS).

The Guam Public School System, which has a separate contract with the company to provide internet service to all of the public schools, also has struggled with incomplete service and slow Internet speed. The inadequate service has threatened federal grant funding that was supposed to pay for it.

Pacific Data Systems received notice in October 2012 that it won a $46,700 Internet contract for one year to the local college, procurement documents state. The contract was worth as much as $140,000 if renewal options for three years were exercised.

"The contract was canceled due to PDS' failure to complete the contract and deliver services," Mary Okada, president and CEO of the local college, said yesterday.

Student learning at the college wasn't disrupted because the college has additional Internet service provided by another contractor, GTA, she said.

GTA temporarily is providing service on a month-to-month basis while another bid process opens up for the contract that would have been performed by PDS. No federal funding was involved in the canceled contract, Okada said.

GHURA system

At the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority (GHURA), federal funding is the payment source for a three-year, $114,648 contract with Pacific Data Systems for Internet connection, phone via the Internet, and other telecom services, documents related to the procurement show. PDS signed the GHURA contract in September 2011 with then-GHURA Executive Director Marcel Camacho.

During the first year of the contract, current GHURA Executive Director Mike Duenas acknowledged, there were problems with the level of service the contractor was able to provide. Those issues came up before Duenas was appointed to lead the federally funded local housing agency last year.

A few months into the GHURA contract, housing agency officials began sending written complaints about the service that was provided under the contract.

In one email, a computer systems analyst with the housing agency wrote, in part, to John Mantanona and other PDS managers on March 27, 2012: "Outages and interruptions are quite frequent and very disruptive, often having to reschedule appointments with families due to connectivity issues."

"There are also some concerns that some of the contract requirements are not being met," GHURA systems analyst Bill Eriksen wrote.

In another email, a GHURA employee wrote on May 24, 2012, that the stability of GHURA's interconnectivity contract with PDS "is not up to par."

Pacific Data Systems executive John Day emailed back within a few hours of the May 24 email: "Got it, I will get our team working on this to stabilize. Sorry for the difficulties."

Among the difficulties Pacific Data Systems was experiencing in providing service to the housing agency, Duenas said yesterday, was that old, copper wires didn't allow for a stable and faster connection.

There were times when calls to or from GHURA sounded slurred because the phone connection via Internet traveled through old copper wires, Duenas said.

Updating DOE

In an earlier interview, involving its Internet contract with the Guam Department of Education (DOE), Day said PDS planned to install updated infrastructure to allow for faster Internet connection. But the company has spent more than a year trying to get a construction permit approved by the local Department of Public Works and has been unable to get approval, Day said last week.

Duenas said PDS' service to GHURA, now in its second year, has stabilized, and speed and connectivity problems have been minimal. And if quality of service does become an issue occasionally, Duenas said PDS responds promptly.

In Guam DOE's case, federal reimbursement of the contract -- worth up to $1 million over five years if fully executed -- was denied. The Internet speed and capacity being provided to the 40 Guam public schools and central office were not at the level that would qualify for reimbursement under the federal E-rate program, documents related to the procurement show.

DOE management has said it didn't cancel the contract with PDS because the contract allows for slower Internet speed connections at a lower and tiered price. Instead of paying $258,000 in one year, for example, Guam DOE has been paying -- out of the local government pocket because federal reimbursement was denied -- $11,000 a month for more than a year.

Unlike DOE, GHURA has been able to use federal money, even when Internet connectivity issues were a problem. The federal government provided the funding as part of GHURA's operations fund, Duenas said.

"Overall, the service is acceptable," Duenas said. "We are on our second year of the contract, which will expire in September 2014."

The agency weighed the cost in settling for what Duenas called "acceptable" service.

The $114,648 contract with PDS was the most affordable GHURA saw among bidders.

GTA's bid came up to $172,908, while IT&E's bid was $354,625, Duenas said.

"PDS generally is responsive when problems are called in, so what we have -- it is working now, for us," Duenas said.

Canceled orders

The local General Services Agency in the past two years also has canceled purchase orders or issued default notices related to internet services for the Guam Fire Department, Guam Customs and Quarantine Agency, Port Authority of Guam, Bureau of Statistics and Plans and the Department of Youth Affairs.

GTA, which lost telecom bids to PDS in some of the contracts, sought documents under a Freedom of Information Act.

After reviewing the documents, GTA is asking the island's public auditor, attorney general and lawmakers to conduct an audit "of the delivery, or lack thereof," of telecommunications services.

"In an analysis of records and data from government of Guam departments and agencies, it appears that the selected vendor who was awarded contracts and purchase order for telecommunications services has fallen short of what was represented in their submissions," GTA states in letters in February to elected officials.

Pacific Data Systems has said in an earlier interview, and in responses to agencies that had connectivity issues, that part of the delay was a result of access to government property to install the connection or infrastructure.

It's unclear whether the General Services Agency reviews telecom bids based on a bidder's capability to deliver the service at the time of the bid.

Calls to the General Services Agency on Monday and yesterday were not returned.

In GCC's case, the college's president said at the time of bid submission, "PDS was deemed the lowest, most responsive and responsible bidder" for the specific Internet capacity and speed the college needed.

But when the service wasn't fully delivered under the contract's deadline, GCC didn't hesitate to sever ties with the winning bidder.

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