Senator expands probe into TSP contract

Hoping for a complete picture of a failed contract to upgrade the Thrift Savings Plan's computer system, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Thursday expanded an inquiry into the matter to include the fired company, asking executives to turn over all internal documents relating to the project.

In a letter to Alfred Mockett, chairman and CEO of American Management Systems Inc., Collins requested a number of documents, including records detailing the qualifications of AMS staff assigned to the project; all communications between AMS staff and the former executive director of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board; and records discussing project delays.

Collins, chair of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a similar request to the TSP board on Aug. 20. The board is complying with the request and has arranged a meeting with committee staff for next week.

"There were some questions that we felt could be better answered by AMS," said committee spokeswoman Andrea Hofelich.

Collins' goal with the probe is to figure out what went wrong with the contract and determine if there are ways to avoid similar failures in the future, Hofelich added. The senator wants the AMS documents by Sept. 5. There's been no decision yet as to whether the committee will hold a hearing or publish a final report on its findings.

AMS was hired in 1997 to modernize the TSP computer system and give federal employees greater flexibility in managing their retirement accounts. The $30 million project was supposed to take three years to complete. Deadlines were continually missed, however, and the work ran on for four years. Finally, in July 2001, the board fired AMS and sued the company for $350 million in damages. AMS filed a breach of contract suit. The two sides recently reached an out-of-court settlement in which TSP participants paid $36 million for the failed contract. That's in addition to the $33 million paid to the contractor that took over after AMS was fired.

AMS officials declined to comment for this story saying they had not yet reviewed Collins' letter.