By Aliya Sternstein
July 30, 2007Sen. Charles Grassley and Sun Microsystems continue to spar over allegations that Sun is not cooperating with an audit of the company's government contract.
On Monday, the Iowa Republican's office said that to its knowledge, Sun has not met any of the deadlines for supplying documentation to the inspector general at the General Services Administration during its audit of the agency's contract for Sun products and services. Grassley had requested the audit June 5 after claims of misconduct within GSA surfaced.
Last week, Sun said in a statement that it is cooperating with the audit and repeatedly has offered to meet with Grassley to discuss both parties' concerns. In a July 25 letter, Sun Chairman Scott McNealy told Grassley that "any information you have received that suggests Sun has not or will not cooperate with the contracting officer and does not intend to provide information on [cost-savings data] is demonstrably false."
Grassley's staff said it wanted to set the record straight that Sun initially requested a meeting the same day that it contacted the senator -- a scheduling impossibility for the busy lawmaker. Sun attorney Ty Cobb of Hogan and Hartson countered that the company offered to make McNealy available on a date of the senator's choosing, "and we never got a response."
According to GSA, Sun was responsive to GSA's request for information regarding the contract. The agency issued a statement on Monday that said, "GSA believes that the recent contract negotiated with Sun Microsystems Inc. is a good deal for the taxpayer."
In a July 24 letter to Sun, Grassley expressed dismay that the IG still had not received documents needed to proceed with the audit. The review involves a contract extension awarded to Sun in September by GSA. The contract has faced scrutiny partly because House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., called GSA Administrator Lurita Doan to testify about her alleged meddling during the business dealings.
At a March hearing, GSA Inspector General Brian Miller stated that Doan and her top staff intervened in negotiations with Sun, going against the judgment of three career contract officers and choosing a higher-priced offer from Sun.
Miller testified that "as a direct consequence of her intervention ... the pricing concession made to Sun means that the U.S. taxpayers will inevitably pay far more for government IT products and services than they should."
Sun's July 25 letter in response to Grassley's letter said "we feel strongly" that this particular inspector general and his staff "have a significant and well-documented conflict of interest and a demonstrated predisposition regarding our contract."
Because of the IG's statements, Sun has asked to be audited by someone outside the IG's office. Sun apparently "got mixed up" in the IG's efforts "to get the administrator ousted. It's bizarre that we got picked as the whipping boy," Cobb said.
Grassley spokeswoman Beth Levine said on Monday: "Frankly, it is irresponsible for Sun to shirk its obligations as a government contractor and to argue that the IG is biased. ... Senator Grassley is confident that the IG will conduct a fair and objective audit of the new Sun contract."
The GSA IG's office did not wish to comment on Monday.
By Aliya Sternstein
July 30, 2007