GSA Exec: Gimme My Million

When the General Services Administration decided a few years ago to start an employee suggestion program, no one imagined the stakes would get so high.

The goal was to give employees incentives for dreaming up new ways to put some cash back into Uncle Sam's pocket. GSA promised to give employees .0015 percent of every dollar saved as a result of their ideas.

What GSA didn't bank on was one Salvatore Ales. The contract specialist in GSA's FTS 2000 division claims that in 1992 he suggested that the government should use special tariffs as benchmarks for negotiating lower prices on modifications and enhancements to the federal telecommunications contracts. He says he learned about the special tariffs after interviewing Federal Communications Commission officials and others.

Ales claims that details of his research were circulated in a memo to higher-ups at GSA. After the strategy was used to negotiate FTS 2000 modifications later that year, Ales' immediate supervisor, H. Buckley Cording, submitted a memo recommending that Ales receive $1.04 million as a result of the millions of dollars saved as a result of his idea.

GSA, on the other hand, claims that Ales' memo suggested that the agency's employees should train with the FCC on tariff-related matters. An award of $250 was offered but was rejected by Ales who, according to GSA, claimed the agency misunderstood his suggestion.

"According to Mr. Ales, his suggestion recommended that...GSA should evaluate the tariff rates against any and all tariffs, including tariff 12 and contract tariffs," says Robert J. Woods, commissioner of GSA's Federal Telecommunications Service. "Since the agency was already using tariff 12 and contract tariffs as a source of comparison, Mr. Ales' suggestion was given no further consideration."

Ales filed a grievance against the agency and the case went to an independent arbitrator selected by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. The arbitrator ruled in favor of Ales and recommended an award in the million-dollar range. GSA's appeal was denied by the Federal Labor Relations Authority and a hearing is scheduled this month to determine how much money GSA owes Ales.

"This is just one more example of the old boy network in which GSA officials don't want to admit that they were unaware they were paying too much for phone service," says Ales, who still works at the agency and claims he is regularly harassed by his managers. "But I'm confident that justice will be served and I will finally get credit for my idea."

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