The state Department of General Services has scuttled all bids on a $10 million contract to replace the state government's aging telephone systems, nullifying an order from the State Board of Contract Appeals to choose a winner from among bidders that remained after the board disqualified the original winner.
The action, announced yesterday by General Services Secretary Martin W. Walsh Jr., appeared to open the door to a new bid by Bell Atlantic Meridian Systems, which was excluded from receiving the contract when the appeals board ruled that its proposal failed to meet the state's technical specifications.
The department's move meant it would drop its announced plan to appeal the board's Sept. 17 decision, which took state procurement officials to task for "arbitrary and capricious" scoring methods.
Among the flaws the board found in the process was that the state had asked for such information as names, ID numbers and whether a proposal had a table of contents -- then ranked the bidders on their answers.
Nevertheless, department spokesman Dave Humphrey said, "we don't feel the board was correct."
Dean Bouland, a lawyer for Fujitsu Business Communications Systems, which successfully appealed the original award, said that the department's action "appears to me to be improper."
Mr. Humphrey denied there was anything improper about the Bell Atlantic award. He said the General Services Department tried to rescore the bidding three times because the board's instructions were "susceptible to interpretation.
"Each time we came up with a different result," Mr. Humphrey said, adding that the governor and other members of the Board of Public Works had been informed of Mr. Walsh's decision.
Mr. Humphrey said the department concluded that it would be vulnerable to legal action if it awarded the contract to any of the remaining bidders.
"It's impossible for us to appeal the Board of Contract Appeals decision or do as the Board of Contract Appeals suggested without paralyzing the procurement in litigation and delay," Mr. Humphrey said. In its ruling last month, the appeals board found that Bell Atlantic Meridian's bid did not satisfy the state's demand that it include redundant features to take over if elements of the system failed. Despite its name, Bell Atlantic Meridian is controlled by Northern Telecom Ltd. of Canada.