New questions surround Wai-Wize and NTTA contract.

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on August 16, 2011 at 10:01 PM

Updated Tuesday, Aug 16 at 10:08 PM

DALLAS — New questions are surfacing about a contract involving Wai-Wize, the communications firm that sold satellite equipment to Dallas County.

This time, another government agency is involved — the North Texas Tollway Authority, which paid thousands to Wai Wize to evaluate its radio system.

What did the public get for its money?

Wai-Wize is the communications contracting firm run by Willis Johnson, a radio personality, political consultant and close friend of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price, who is under FBI investigation.

The NTTA contracted with Wai-Wize in March 2008 to analyze the agency's radio system and make recommendations for future improvements. Records show the company was paid $47,500 and was hired without competitive bids.

"They were identified as an expert in this field" said Clayton Howe, NTTA Assistant Executive Director of Operations. "It was identified that they were the best person to provide this service."

Four months later, Wai-Wize produced a 118-page report depicting NTTA's existing radio system and making recommendations on improvements. It was complete with photographs and technical system analysis, and some of the information was so sensitive that key portions had to be redacted.

But according to Howe, the key portion of the report could be summed up on one page.

Wai-Wize engineers deduced that "much of the equipment is old" and that the options available to NTTA were:

  • "expand" the current system
  • "replace and expand" the current system
  • "lease" equipment which would mean a "minimal capital investment."

Brief cost estimates were included in the Wai-Wize report. Beyond that, the director of operations appeared to be at a loss to point out relevant analysis contained in the report.

In addition to the questionable depth of analysis, most of the text is littered with irregular type.

NTTA staff also may have overlooked what appears to be page after page of the technical analysis that was apparently lifted right off the Internet.

Several charts used in the Wai-Wize report were exact duplicates of material posted on the Web depicting a manual from Ericsson dating back to 1996.

Another potential problem: Ericsson Systems says it has never done business with NTTA. Tollway Authority officials say their radios were made by Motorola.

When asked what NTTA did with the $47,500 report from Wai-Wize, Howe said: "Nothing."

In fact, neither the chairman nor the vice-chair of the NTTA board at the time remembers having seen the report.

Yet NTTA officials say they stand behind it and believe they got their money's worth.

Wai-Wize did not return our call for comment.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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