CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The state spent almost $15 million extra in federal grant funds on routers and equipment that far outpace the needs of those who received the items, according to a report from the legislative auditor's office.
The state didn't investigate specific Internet needs of the facilities when it bought more than 1,100 routers for $24 million from Cisco. And the purchasing was done in a "legally unauthorized" way, the report continues.
The performance evaluation and research division of the state legislative auditor's office compiled a lengthy report outlining its findings. Legislative Auditor Aaron Allred presented the report to legislators Sunday.
The state could have saved millions of dollars and more effectively located the routers if it had done its homework, Allred contended. But it didn't help that representatives for Cisco showed "wanton indifference in the interest of the public" by recommending the large routers, the report states.
Allred contended the attitude warrants a discussion over whether the company representatives in question should be banned from further bids for state contracts altogether. An email sent to a Cisco public relations employee was not returned Sunday.
"The Legislative Auditor believes that the Cisco sales representatives and engineers had a moral responsibility to propose a plan which reasonably complied with Cisco's own engineering standards," Allred read from the report.
Rob Alsop, chief of staff for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, spoke to legislators after Allred.
Alsop said he couldn't say whether there was or was not nefarious intent by the Cisco representatives. It is up to the purchasing division to make those determinations, he said. He said he believes the entire grant team had "noble goals" and was trying to help the state.
Alsop pointed out the decision about which routers to purchase was made before Tomblin was in office, but believes it was made with the ability to accommodate future growth in mind.
"It's what those libraries and schools should be able to do in the next decade," Alsop said.
The state also got a discount on the routers, so the cost might have been in the same ballpark even if it decided to go with a smaller router, he said.
In 2010 the Office of Technology purchased the Cisco model 3945 routers with Broadband Technology Opportunity Program funding. The $126 million federal BTOP grant is an attempt to increase the availability of high speed Internet in West Virginia
One model 3945 router can support more than 200 simultaneous connections, and is "ideal for mid-size to large deployments," according to Cisco data referenced in the report.
These routers were sent to "Community Anchor Institutions" such as schools, libraries or municipal buildings in an attempt of reaching an entire community. But the capacity -- and price -- of the routers has been far too high for the needs of any of those locations, Allred said.
The state bought the model 3945 routers for 457 schools, the report states. Of those, 89 have 500 or more students, a justifiable number of potential users for the size of the router, according to the report.
The remaining 368 schools, with less than 500 students, would be well served with smaller routers that cost $10,000 a unit. The state overspent $3.68 million at these schools for the routers, the auditor argues.