The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

February 11, 2013

Legislative auditors slam router deal

Report: W.Va. officials wasted millions in federal stimulus funds

CHARLESTON — West Virginia officials wasted millions of federal stimulus dollars by insisting on buying more than 1,000 high-capacity routers as part of a $24 million deal meant to boost Internet access statewide, a report presented Sunday to lawmakers concluded.

Legislative auditors believe state purchasing officials should consider barring sales staff and engineers from router manufacturer Cisco who helped arrange the deal from future contracts. The report’s other recommendations include ending the bidding process that was used, which bypassed normal contract rules.  

A Cisco spokeswoman did not immediately respond for requests for comment Sunday. State officials maintain that the 2010 deal was needed to build a long-lasting network offering high-speed Internet access statewide.

Sunday’s audit sharply criticizes the choice of high-capacity routers to create hubs for this network at schools, libraries and other community institutions. While their capacity is in between models for typical home routers and those used to keep the Internet running, the Cisco 3945 devices are unnecessarily powerful for hundreds of the planned anchor locations, the report said.

“I believe every West Virginian deserves the same broadband access,” Legislative Auditor Aaron Allred told the two House-Senate oversight committees that received the report Sunday. “But having the same access doesn’t mean you have the same number of buses for the Pendleton County school system that you buy for the Kanawha County school system.”

The latter is the state’s largest county, while Pendleton is among its most rural and sparsely populated. Allred used maps to show multiple high-capacity routers slated for the same rural area. Other more populated sites, such as Kanawha County’s easternmost high school, were meanwhile overlooked.

Allred said the state wasted millions of dollars that could have helped build the needed fiber optic network for connecting these planned hubs. The state’s 172 libraries, for instance, could instead rely on small and less costly routers that would have saved the state nearly $3 million, auditors found. While 89 larger schools could benefit from the high-capacity routers, the state could have saved nearly $3.7 million by providing lower-scale versions to another 368 schools.

The auditors also estimated nearly $2.4 million in savings if officials had bought a different mix of routers for State Police detachments. Among other issues, the high-capacity Cisco routers lack parts that allow the State Police to rely on them for phone service. The report notes that the department already has properly sized routers that provide phone service — after conducting a study of its technology team that the officials overseeing the stimulus spending ignored.

Rob Alsop, chief of staff to Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, said West Virginia should aim to match and then stay ahead of the constantly changing technology curve.

“It wasn’t about the size of the facilities ... It was about what those libraries and schools should be able to do over the course of the next decade,” Alsop told lawmakers Sunday. “Those routers can do more than what’s currently available.”

The report recommends that technology officials contact Cisco to negotiate a trade-in of unneeded components in exchange for the parts that would allow the State Police to use the new routers for their phone service. It similarly suggests that officials study the capacity needs of all planned router locations — a step that auditors say officials failed to take before the purchase — and provide findings to lawmakers before this year’s regular session ends in April.

While it repeatedly criticizes state officials, the audit also slams Cisco. The tech giant’s chief executive, John Chambers, was raised in West Virginia, and Allred said the state has become “overly dependent on Cisco’s goodwill.”

“The Legislative Auditor believes that the Cisco sales representatives and engineers had a moral responsibility to propose a plan which reasonably complied with Cisco’s own engineering standards,” the report said. “It is the opinion of the Legislative Auditor that the Cisco representatives showed a wanton indifference to the interests of the public in recommending using $24 million of public funds to purchase 1,164 Cisco model 3945 branch routers.”

The U.S. Commerce Department’s inspector general criticized West Virginia officials for the stimulus spending last month.

The router deal was part of a plan funded by $126 million in stimulus grants that also aims to fill gaps in the microwave communication system for law enforcement and other first responders, and provide the first-ever broadband connection between the sprawling National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank and West Virginia University.

Text Only
West Virginia
  • Manchin urges mines to speak out for coal

    The Democratic senator leading the battle against the White House’s strategy to fight climate change urged the mining industry on Tuesday to speak out about coal’s role in providing affordable, reliable electricity to the country to help combat strict new emissions rules for coal-fired power plants.

    April 16, 2014

  • Many schools already meet new mandate for breakfast

    Many West Virginia public schools have changed the way they serve breakfast to students ahead of a requirement that goes into effect in September.

    April 14, 2014

  • W.Va. grower promotes unmodified feed corn

    Lyle Tabb is hoping that his non-genetically modified corn will take off with farmers who can charge top dollar for “all natural” eggs.
    Genetically modified or GMO corn has greatly simplified the process of getting rid of weeds, but has also substantially increased the amount of a chemical call glyphosate.

    April 13, 2014

  • Geologists link small quakes to fracking

    Geologists in Ohio have for the first time linked earthquakes in a geologic formation deep under the Appalachians to hydraulic fracturing, leading the state to issue new permit conditions Friday in certain areas that are among the nation’s strictest.
    A state investigation of five small tremors last month in the Youngstown area, in the Appalachian foothills, found the injection of sand and water that accompanies hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in the Utica shale may have increased pressure on a small, unknown fault, said State Oil & Gas Chief Rick Simmers. He called the link “probable.”

    April 12, 2014

  • Phares looks forward to retirement

    James Phares looked forward to the challenge and opportunity to help make a difference in a state education system under fire when he was hired in late 2012 as West Virginia’s schools superintendent.
    After 18 months, Phares will be stepping down on June 30 — which he said was set long ago as the day at age 61 that he’d walk with his wife into retirement.

    April 11, 2014

  • Teacher planning, abortion ban among W.Va. vetoes

    Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed about 200 bills and nixed eight this year, leaving teachers and abortion opponents unsatisfied.

    April 7, 2014

  • Spill company president ‘bears no fault’

    The president of Freedom Industries “bears no fault” for a West Virginia chemical spill that spurred a water-use ban for up to 10 days for 300,000 people, his lawyer says in a court filing.
    On Friday, Freedom President Gary Southern withdrew his application to get paid for work he already did during the company’s bankruptcy proceedings. He also wanted Freedom and its insurance to cover his legal fees related to the Jan. 9 spill.

    April 5, 2014

  • Agencies to ask West Virginia residents about chemical spill

    Health agencies are making thousands of phone calls and going door-to-door to ask West Virginians how a January chemical spill affected them.
    The state Bureau for Public Health announced Thursday that volunteers will survey randomly selected households in nine counties about health concerns from the spill.

    April 5, 2014

  • Hearing scheduled on police shooting suit dispute

    The family of a Virginia man who was shot and killed by Martinsburg police officers after a scuffle is asking a judge to order the city to give them investigative and autopsy reports from the incident.
    The estate of 50-year-old Wayne Arnold Jones of Stephens City, Va., filed a $200 million federal lawsuit against the city after he was killed on March 13, 2013.

    April 4, 2014

  • Families remember mine disaster victims

    Four years after losing friends and relatives in a West Virginia mine disaster, 11 people preferred to watch a film together that they knew would reopen those wounds.
    The film, “Upper Big Branch - Never Again,” by former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship theorized that his old company wasn’t at fault for the deadly explosion, despite four investigations that concluded otherwise.

    April 3, 2014

House Ads
Featured Ads