GSA issues IBM a letter of concern for problems with procurement system

Friday - 8/10/2012, 6:40pm EDT

The story was corrected at 2 p.m. Aug. 11. IBM received a letter of concern, not a cure letter from GSA.

The General Services Administration has officially ordered IBM to fix the troubled System for Award Management (SAM).

Sources confirmed GSA issued IBM a letter of concern Aug. 7. In the official notice, GSA told the company to develop a plan of action and milestones for how they will make SAM work more smoothly. Under the program, GSA wants to consolidate eight acquisition databases, including the Central Contractor Registration, the Past Performance Information Retrieval System and six others.

A letter of concern is a step before a cure letter, saying there are problems with the system but it's not as bad as a cure letter.

GSA hired IBM under an eight- year, $74.4 million contract in 2010.

"The agency is committed to working with IBM to quickly resolve the issues with the system" said GSA spokeswoman Mafara Hobson in an email statement. "The goal is to get it up and running as soon as possible."

GSA's decision to issue the letter comes as frustration grows across the government. Sources said the Chief Acquisition Officer's Council held a meeting earlier this week and discussed SAM's problems.

GSA launched SAM on July 31 after a month-long delay, and almost immediately the system struggled. GSA took SAM offline for a few days. It went back up Aug. 7, but is still having latency and other issues.

Sources said GSA told IBM to fix the system or risk penalties.

Sources said IBM is taking steps to address SAM's problems, including adding more servers and bringing in a new team of employees.

GSA posted on the site today a message to users: "SAM is still experiencing some performance issues, which may result in a slowness of page loading or maybe even a webpage error. We are working to improve these issues as quickly as possible. We appreciate your patience. SAM has the most users online from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Time."

An IBM spokeswoman referred all questions about SAM to GSA.

Read GSA's letter to IBM.

RELATED STORIES:
GSA hires IBM to consolidate procurement databases

Troubled federal procurement data systems to get facelift