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Monday, November 24, 2008

Full employment for my dentist

The latest News Brief has me grinding my teeth:
"Compliance with E-rate program requirements is not an excuse for non-compliance with state and local requirements. In general, when E-rate program requirements and state or local requirements differ, you should comply with the requirements that are more stringent to make sure you are in compliance with both."

What about when E-Rate rules require something that state law forbids? For example:
  1. You're wiring a building. It is not cost-effective to award the low-voltage (data and phone) wiring to one contractor and electrical wiring to another. (Think about it: That piece of molding coming down the wall has two channels, for electric and low-voltage. So you'd need to cost-allocate, and you'll have one contractor going into the other contractor's molding.) So if you want to choose a single contractor, E-Rate rules require that price of eligible components be the primary factor, while state law requires that you take the overall lowest bid. So there is a possibility that you'll have to forego E-Rate funding, since it would be illegal to make the choice based on the price of only eligible items.
  2. It's illegal for most applicants to sign contracts in January for services that don't start until the following fiscal year.
  3. Applicants are required to certify on the 471 that "resources have been secured" to pay their share of E-Rate costs, as well as pay for training, support, etc. State laws do not permit applicants to have a budget for the following year at the time the 471 is certified.

What are the solutions to these conflicts?

  1. The FCC should get out of the competitive bidding process and let state laws ensure competitive bidding.
  2. Don't require contracts before the 471. Just use a quote. The contract doesn't prevent waste, fraud or abuse, and forcing an early contract results in less cost-effective purchases.
  3. Stop requiring that certification.

Now I need to unclench my jaw and get some work done.

1 comment:

  1. I just saw some data about my first complaint. According to a study published in the Engineering News Record on May 24, 1993, using multiple prime contractors for construction projects increased cost by 13%.

    But E-Rate rules make it impossible to set up a single-prime bid. Pieces of the contract eligible for E-Rate have to be torn out of the overall design and bid separately.

    It costs the program a lot of money, and does nothing to prevent waste, fraud and abuse.