The General Services Administration will try to block all government sales by Lanier Business Products Inc. for three years because of alleged improprieties related to the firms' failure to comply with contract terms.
GSA officials said that, because Lanier sold more than $41 million in office products to federal agencies over the past year, the action is among the largest in the agency's history.
Lanier Vice President Paul Neff rebutted charges that his firm tried "in any way to deceive the federal government" and said "we will prevail on appeal--they just do not know the full and complete facts on this case; they are way, way off base."
GSA's director of acquisition policy, Allan W. Beres, notified Lanier last Monday that, beginning next month, the firm no longer would be allowed to sell word processors and telephone answering machines, and their accessories, to the federal government under two separate contracts negotiated by GSA's Office of Information Resources Management.
Lanier has until until Oct. 19 to bring the case to the GSA Board of Contract Appeals.
Last May, another GSA subunit, the Office of Federal Supply and Services, barred Lanier from continuing sales of dictating and transcribing equipment under a separate contract and asked Beres to consider a suspension. That review was under way when debarment procedures began last week.
"We want to send a message to the private sector that companies doing business with the federal government cannot take their obligation lightly," said a top GSA official.
Neff said the Atlanta-based firm has been "beseiged with a smorgasboard of tales of impropriety" from GSA that are based on inaccurate information.
An aide to GSA Administrator Gerald P. Carmen confirmed that Lanier was selling products under a so-called most-favored-customer program to the States of Texas and North Carolina at better prices than similar products were being offered to the federal government.
Neff said "they are not really comparing apples and apples," because the government does not buy in bulk like state customers, "it buys in ones and twos."
Beres said that Lanier, for example, sold a piece of dictating equipment commercially for $495, but offered it to the government for $448--a 9 1/2 percent discount. "But, to the State of Texas, they sold the same item for $219--a 56 percent discount," he said.
"The debarment proposal is based on evidence of improprieties in the procurement process," Beres said. "Comment on the details of the case would be inappropriate."