Lawmakers Request DHS Investigation into Motorola Anticompetitive Allegations (7/15/14)
Tuesday, July 15, 2014 | Comments

Ranking members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce requested an investigation into allegations of anticompetitive conduct by Motorola Solutions in the sale of public-safety telecommunications equipment and services in a letter to John Roth, inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

In March, the McClatchy newspapers published a series of articles alleging “government officials have handed [Motorola] noncompetitive contracts, used modifications of years-old contracts to acquire new systems or crafted bid specifications to Motorola’s advantage.” A McClatchy article said “Auditors who track the use of grants from [DHS] and other agencies have given little scrutiny to the behavior of state and local officials who tilt procurements toward Motorola, including those who ignore requirements that its radios fully interact with other brands.”

“We are concerned that the state and local jurisdictions discussed in the McClatchy articles, as well as many other jurisdictions, may have squandered federal grants, provided in part by DHS, as a result of questionable practices by Motorola,” said the letter signed by Reps. Henry A. Waxman, Anna G. Eshoo and Diana DeGette.

“If the allegations in the McClatchy articles are true, millions of federal tax dollars may have been wasted, and millions more are at risk. We therefore ask that you initiate an investigation to determine whether the abuses described in the McClatchy articles occurred and if so, whether DHS grants were involved. If DHS grants were involved, we ask that you please propose changes to prevent a recurrence of these abuses.”

The letter highlights the articles’ allegations of anticompetitive procedures for Motorola public-safety contracts with the Kansas Department of Transportation, the city of Chicago, the city of Dallas, the state of Mississippi, and California’s Riverside, Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

The letter asks DHS to provide the following:

• A list of all DHS grants to state and local agencies that selected Motorola as their vendor for public-safety equipment and whether the jurisdictions followed a competitive bidding process.

• An assessment of whether DHS provided interoperability grants to jurisdictions that then used those funds to pay for post-contract change orders from Motorola.

• An assessment of whether DHS issued grant guidance that prevents the use of proprietary features in public-safety equipment such as encryption standards.

• An assessment of whether the East Bay Regional Communications System Authority (EBRCSA) in California received DHS interoperability grants while insisting that all of its participating agencies purchase Motorola equipment.

“We offer our customers a full range of industry-standard, interoperable solutions, with an array of features and options to choose from based on their specific needs,” said a Motorola statement in response to a request from MissionCritical Communications. “For example, one of the options we offer our customers is voice encryption, a critical security need for many public-safety agencies to prevent criminals from eavesdropping and evading law enforcement.

“Motorola complies with applicable laws and regulations and competes fairly for our customers’ business by offering them superior products and solutions. We offer solutions and products that achieve costs savings for the taxpayer, improve safety for communities and enable quick implementation for local agencies.

“We maintain an open dialogue with members of Congress, policymakers and elected officials, especially those who make public-safety communications and government procurement a priority. When a series of articles were published in March of this year, we immediately reached out to members of Congress and offered to answer any questions they had. And we continue to welcome dialogue with government representatives so that they better understand the vital role that Motorola’s products, services and business operations play in advancing public safety.”

The House Commerce letter is here.

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