The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, along with other natural disasters, forced the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to shift to remote work. In a new report, the agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) said that the EPA was able to effectively plan a long-term solution to address remote access concerns while also transitioning to the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract.

GSA’s new EIS contract will replace the existing Networx contracts set to expire in May 2023 for governmentwide network and telecommunications solution programs.

In the report, OIG noted that the EPA’s solicitation for network and telecommunications services under the EIS contract, EPA included a requirement that the selected vendor provide remote access solutions to support 12,500 concurrent remote users, with the capability to expand to 20,000 concurrent remote users. OIG said that the range of concurrent remote users should meet EPA’s future workforce needs since it exceeds the EPA’s fiscal year 2020 workforce by almost 6,000 users.

While the OIG praised EPA’s future-minded contract solicitation, it did note that the EPA did not disconnect GSA services, such as analog phone and digital subscriber lines, that were no longer needed in a timely manner. OIG provided one such instance wherein as part of its EIS transition activities that began in 2015, the EPA identified unneeded GSA services, but as of May 2021, 268 of the services determined to be unneeded were still not disconnected. Additionally, the report found that it took between one to 61 months for eight of the EPA’s disconnection orders for unneeded services to be put into effect. These delays cost the EPA at least $7,850, the OIG said.

However, the report did find that the EPA did disconnect more than 18,000 unneeded GSA services from November 2016 through April 2021.

The OIG said that because the EPA has taken steps to disconnect unneeded services as part of its EIS transition activities, it did not have any recommendations for the agency.

The report also noted that the EPA failed to meet a few EIS transition milestones. In particular, EPA has yet to validate service inventory against E-MORRIS database, which is GSA’s system that supports billing and inventory for the Networx contracts. EPA has yet to validate its service inventory because the E-MORRIS database contains more than 60,000 flawed entries. EPA estimated that it would cost more than $160,000 to conduct a full reconciliation.

Additionally, the EPA didn’t meet a Sept. 30, 2019 milestone to award its EIS task orders. Instead, EPA planned to award the task order by June 29, 2021. However, the OIG said that as of July 2021, the EPA had not selected an EIS vendor.

The EPA did not provide a formal written response to the draft report.

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk's Assistant Copy & Production Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.