NY comptroller to M/A-COM on statewide network: Time to fish or cut bait
New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli last week released two audits recommending that the New York State Office for Technology (OFT) not proceed with a $2 billion contract with Tyco Electronics M/A-COM to build a statewide wireless network based on the current performance of the network.
“New York is not much closer to a statewide network today than it was when this whole process started,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “After three rounds of failed testing, it is apparent that this system is not ready to move forward. M/A-COM has not met its contractual obligations, and New York can’t afford to spend $2 billion on a system that doesn’t work right. It’s time to fish or cut bait. M/A-COM has to deliver what it promised.”
DiNapoli’s statements accompanied the release of two audits from the comptroller’s office, one of which cited the poor performance of the Tyco Electronics M/A-COM-built primary phase of the Statewide Wireless Network (SWN) in Erie County and Chautauqua County. This audit cites “unclear voice communications, unacceptable tower downtime, inoperable portable radio devices, and delays when handing off signals between tower sites” in the first round of testing last fall and states that several of the deficiencies continued to exist in all three rounds of testing, the last of which was completed in July.
While the first audit questions whether Tyco Electronics M/A-COM fulfilled the performance requirements of its contract, the second audit questions whether the economics associated with the statewide network make sense for local agencies to join SWN as full partners. In the second audit, the comptroller’s office notes that Erie County apparently will save $30 million by building its own system and paying only for a gateway to interoperate with the statewide network.
“Even if the system is fixed, our audit of Erie County demonstrates that localities should seriously look at alternatives to SWN,” DiNapoli said.
The audits are not the first time the New York comptroller’s office has criticized the SWN project, which has become a highly politicized topic in the state. In December 2006, then-comptroller Alan Hevesi issued a report stating that local public-safety entities would have to pay $790 million to buy equipment necessary to access the SWN.
That report proved to have little impact on the project, as OFT officials expressed support for M/A-COM and Hevesi resigned as comptroller a few weeks later amid a political scandal involving his ailing wife being driven around by a state employee. However, the OFT agreed with the audit findings released by the comptroller’s office last week.
If the state does not accept the first phase of the SWN network, it has the right to nix the contract and not pay any money to Tyco Electronics M/A-COM, which already has spent more than $50 million on the project and has secured a $100 million performance bond. The OFT is scheduled to make a decision on the fate of the program by Friday.
Tyco Electronics M/A-COM disputed many of the findings; in the comptroller’s audit, in which company officials were cited as deeming the audit to be “inappropriate and unfounded.”
Tyco Electronics M/A-COM spokeswoman Victoria Dillon said the company did considerable work after the July tests to remedy virtually all areas of concern, expressing confidence that the network meets contractual obligations for a mobile network.
Tyco Electronics M/A-COM was not given details regarding some of the failure statistics cited by OFT, so the company declined to comment on the matter. However, Dillon said the network gateways function well.
“We stand by our gateways and our ability to connect legacy systems-it’s experienced technology that we’ve used effectively in other states,” Dillon said, noting that gateways are not designed to repair poor audio quality in an existing system. “Sometimes, all it takes is an adjustment to the legacy systems, which has been done-something that was above and beyond what the contract called for.”