Federal Technology Service chief to step down

GSA unit plagued by allegations of contracting and procurement improprieties.

Sandra Bates, commissioner of the General Services Administration Federal Technology Service, will end her government career effective Feb. 11.

In an e-mail sent to GSA colleagues and employees Monday, Bates wrote that she had "given a lot of thought to the future and to the new directions that make sense as I look ahead."

"I've made some personal resolutions," she continued. "And I have thought through an action plan to help me keep them. An important feature of this action plan is my decision to retire from government service." Bates gave no indication of what she plans to do after leaving her post.

Bates will depart FTS at an uneasy time for the agency. It has been beset for more than a year by findings of contracting and procurement violations and mismanagement in its regional offices. Bates helped lead an effort to correct the abuses, but in recent months has kept a relatively low profile, sources said, fueling speculation that her retirement was imminent.

In her e-mail, Bates wrote, "We've faced lots of challenges together over the years, and we've accomplished important results for our customers." Those customers include the federal agencies for whom FTS acts as an information technology procurement arm. Many of FTS contracting violations involved instances of employees using appropriated funds set aside for technology purchases to buy unrelated items, such as construction services, marine equipment and mental health and counseling services.

"We have worked hard together, and when the work was done, we enjoyed the times when we could play hard together," Bates wrote. "I am confident that you and FTS will continue to make me proud as you tackle the challenges and excel in the opportunities of the future."

FTS is planning to award billions of dollars in governmentwide technology and telecommunications contracts. Recent statements from congressional overseers indicate, however, that the agency may be reformed as part of a larger overhaul in management and structure at GSA.

In reaction to a GSA inspector general's report, released in December, that found widespread contracting abuse at FTS, the chairman of the committee overseeing GSA's operations indicated that he will consider a "permanent reorganization" of the agency this year. A spokesman for House Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis, R-Va., said, "GSA must get its house in order....Because of the IG's revelations of procurement irregularities at FTS, Chairman Davis will be reviewing options to resolve the agency's structural and management challenges….If this requires that we mandate a permanent reorganization within GSA, Chairman Davis is prepared to take whatever action is needed, including the introduction of legislation that will do so."

A GSA spokeswoman confirmed Bates' retirement, but said she had nothing further to add. She indicated, however, that additional comments would be forthcoming.

Bates began working for the federal government in 1969, at GSA. A decade later, she went to work for NASA, where she spent 15 years, holding various positions in telecom, including program manager for NASA's agencywide local telecom services program.

In 1996, Bates returned to GSA to lead its FTS2000 telecom contract. She served as FTS assistant commissioner for service delivery until her appointment as deputy commissioner in November 1997.