Mass. delegation backed disputed computer deal

November 02, 1990|By Leslie Cauley

The Massachusetts House delegation has written a letter to Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan Jr. urging him to allow a controversial $127 million contract to Westboro, Mass.-based Data General Corp. go through as planned.

The Oct. 26 letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Sun yesterday, urges Mr. Lujan to proceed with implementing the contract speedily.

"We would appreciate your taking an interest in expediting this process so that the public is no longer denied the benefits of the system called for in this contract," said the letter, which was signed by all 11 House members from the state, but not its two senators.

Those signing included Democrats Barney Frank, Joseph P. Kennedy II and Edward J. Markey, and Republican Silvio O. Conte.

Lloyd Meeds, a former congressman from Washington, is a lobbyist for Data General.

The request comes during a continuing investigation by the General Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee of the House Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, which had asked the Interior Department to suspend the computer contract pending the outcome of its probe.

The disputed contract, one of the largest held by Data General's Aviion computer division, calls for the acquisition of computer hardware, software and services for the U.S. Geological Survey, a division of the Interior Department.

The contract is one in a series of contracts to establish an interagency computer system.

Earlier this month, the subcommittee, headed by Peter H. Kostmayer, D-Pa., began investigating the Interior Department's handling of the contract.

The probe was launched to investigate reports that Data General and the government had tried to pay a smaller Virginia computer supplier to drop out of the bidding for the contract.

The proposed agreement -- reportedly for $1.475 million -- was rejected by a federal court. But the subcommittee was sufficiently troubled by the government's involvement in such an agreement that it decided to investigate further.

Since then, the subcommittee has learned that Data General executives taped a phone conversation with a federal contracting officer just one day before Data General was awarded the contract.

A transcript of that conversation suggested that "important procurement-sensitive information" about the contract may have been relayed from the contracting officer to Data General, according to an Oct. 25 letter from Mr. Kostmayer to the Interior secretary.

In his Oct. 25 letter, Mr. Kostmayer indicated that his subcommittee investigation has been slowed by "evasive" responses from theInterior Department about the contract.

The Oct. 26 letter from the Massachusetts delegation made no mention of the congressional inquiry or the concerns raised by Mr. Kostmayer.


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