the Office of Information Technology's policy is for each agency to identify unused lines and issue a termination request as appropriate," OIT Spokeswoman Shelley Bates read from a prepared statement. "Moving forward, OIT will issue quarterly zero usage reports to agencies to take a more proactive approach in terminating unused lines. In addition, OIT will make a full review of the state's policy for phone lines and take corrective action as appropriate."

Another issue highlighted in the report is a lack of documentation regarding employees' cell phone issuances.

"Assignment of wireless devices to state employees must be based upon the need to have constant communication, and the benefit must justify the cost," the report said. "We found that many departments were not maintaining documentation to justify their assignment of such devices."

Contracting Procedures Disputed

As well, in a review of four state telecommunication contracts, the Comptroller's Office found each had been extended at least seven times without being opened up to bid -- and one of them had been extended 22 times.

A review of OIT and the Department of Treasury's Division of Purchase and Property -- the state's procurement agency -- concluded both agencies obtained waivers from competitive bidding by incorrectly labeling certain telecommunications services as being available from only one source, the report states.

"The state has prevented fair vendor competition in its telecommunications contracts for more than a decade and essentially handed out a no-bid contract with each extension," Boxer said in the release. "As a result, the public cannot be sure that the state is getting a fair price."

Responding to the aforementioned issue, the OIT said that it and the procurement agency have tried to open up the contracts for bid. Ebeid's letter of response stated the report demonstrates a "lack of understanding" on how the telecommunications billing and contracting processes work.

He said telecommunications contracts were extended after deep discounts were negotiated with the vendors, which has saved the state more than $12 million since 2007. Ebeid also noted that the state's analog-based Centrex Operations is a critical piece of the overall picture. "We are unable to take advantage of the competitive opportunities unless we modernize our entire infrastructure into an IP-based network," his letter said. "As we modernize the Garden State Network and increase its capacity, we will be able to transport voice and data on a shared network."

 

Karen Wilkinson  |  Staff Writer