Contract extended to switch Baltimore city government phone system to VoIP - Baltimore


Mar. 9, 2018 11:51 am

Contract extended to switch Baltimore city government phone system to VoIP

A consultant received a $100K re-up as the effort to bring new phone technology passes five years.

City phones need an upgrade.

(Photo by Flickr user Donovan Graen, used under a Creative Commons license)

A contractor brought on by Baltimore city government to help upgrade city phone systems was extended for another year.

As first reported by the Baltimore Sun, the city’s Board of Estimates this week approved a $99,750 contract extension for consulting firm Battles Group to assist in the implementation. It’s part of a yearslong effort to switch the city phone systems to Voice-over-Internet-Protocol (VoIP). Silver Spring–based Battles Group is working with city departments including the Department of Communications Services, which is run by the city Comptroller’s office, and Mayor’s Office of Information Technology on the effort.

The phone system upgrade was initially tackled in 2012, but an inspector general’s investigation and an eventual lawsuit between city departments put the process on hold.

The new funding re-ups an initial agreement for about $200,000 that was signed in 2015 after then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Comptroller Joan Pratt reached an agreement to put out a new RFP. Last year, the board approved an extension in the same amount as the new contract.

“This amendment is necessary due to delays in project implementation as a result of infrastructure not being ready, pricing negotiations, and shared services,” the Board of Estimates proposal states.

  • Harry Lime 88

    What an outrage, taxpayers. Grifters gonna grift. This isn’t responsible management. (I need to lower my expectations.)

    Isn’t Pratt the Comptroller? $5+ million to Arrow for 7000 phones!? And they’re not even at 3700 phones yet? When did the project start? Why give more money to the team that allowed the slow delivery? Who wants to bet against another extension to Battles Group next year? ($200+K to Battles to lead and manage a $5M contracted project ineffectively, behind schedule and over budget? I know. Let’s give them another $100K!)

    There are so many things wrong with this story. Baltimore’s inability to negotiate and manage vendor contract performance; their inability to manage internal projects. Baltimore’s spendthrift ways. Baltimore’s technology failing the city. Baltimore’s phone system “managed” separately. Pugh, Pratt, Hammen, Raymond and Johnson will go along, naturally. That’s just the way it’s done.

    Let’s look at the bigger picture. Scene: City Hall, late Jan 2018.

    Mayor Pugh: “Comptroller Pratt, I’m going to be asking for 20 new positions for communications positions, community outreach people, and an African-American Male Outreach Director. I need your support at Estimates.”

    Comptroller Pratt: “That seems excessive. Well, I might be able to support the 20 positions if you support $100K for an extension to my VOIP consultants. Also, I need some cover and must blame your IT team, Mullen, Monroe and Johnson, for the delays. I can’t be tainted in any way. We need to protect my consultants and team. If I pay $100K to enforce the terms of a $5 million contract, I need some cover. Even though it’s already a contract and my Telephone Group and your Purchasing could easily enforce the contract, it’s easier this way. Taxpayers will never know.”

    Pugh: “Joan, I can do that. We all know managing such a complicated project as putting a phone on a desk is hard. Tell you what. I’ll even throw in interview privileges on the AAMO Director. You always enjoy those interviews, as we both do. Deal?”

    Pratt: “Deal!” Together: “It’s a win-win!”

  • Harry Lime 88

    Half million dollars to Battles Group to monitor everyone else doing the work? Nice.


    Wait until next year’s extension.


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