It’s hard to read a paper, find any news channel, open a page on social media or the Internet without a full blown diatribe on the problems with the Affordable Care Act website. Three years in development and by all standards it’s an absolute disaster. The Administration initially blamed its down fall on the extremely high volumes of traffic. Now that we’ve learned only six people in the nation were able to sign up the first day it’s clear the site was never built to stand up to the demands it had to face.
The Affordable Care Act has enough press these days and personally I’m tired of reading about it and I’m sure you must also be. Since it’s now the law of the land it will either prove itself or fail under the weight of its own unfulfilled promise.
My concern relates to how government functions. Certainly Congresswoman Pelosi’s comments: “We’ll have to pass it to find out what’s in it,” continues to ring true when this nugget of news was recently released.
CGI Federal, the company that created large parts of the above mentioned Affordable Care Act Exchange website has recently been awarded several new government contracts. Since its launch CGI has signed five different agreements according to USASpending.gov, a government website that lists government contracts. The new contracts were for computer and software development at the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Commerce and the Environmental Protection Agency.
One has to wonder why the government, after spending $290 million for creating the Health Care Exchange, would consider it a wise move to use this firm again for anything. The Administration surely understands the magnitude of the failure by this company to live up to its responsibilities, but instead of demanding a refund they dole out more work to them.
In this new technological age it’s not uncommon to be fooled by a company claiming to have all the answers only to discover you’ve been had. But to reward such a poor performance with new contracts goes well beyond common reasoning. One would think the folks at HHS would be the first to be screaming at the top of their lungs but instead they were one of the first to reward CGI with more work.
So just who makes the rules on how government contracts are awarded and why would a firm like CGI not be blacklisted after this recent embarrassment?
According to Avik Roy, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, CGI has no real skill sets and many of the projects they’ve worked on have failed. Well that makes perfect sense. Leave it to our government to spend millions on contracts with companies who have no idea what they are doing.
Mr. Roy went on to say that the failure came as no surprise when considering the bureaucratic way that contracts are awarded. The procurement process requires companies to jump through so many hoops, the skill sets developed by companies like CGI are more about understanding how to win the contracts by meeting the regulatory standards.
Our government has created such a convoluted system it precludes them from hiring a couple young, skilled tech students fresh out of college and give them the opportunity to do something transformational for the country. They have to spend millions of dollars, with companies destined to fail, who send the work out of the country and defend their actions in a manner insulting to the American public.
At the end of the day we’re getting exactly what we’ve asked for. Until we demand better from our government, they will continue to take more of our hard earned money and waste it on pie in the sky promises they know up front they can’t deliver. Years ago it was the $600 hammer and $1,000 toilet seat. Today it’s a nearly $300 million website that a couple interns could have built in a few short weeks in exchange for course credit.
Dan Alexander is associate publisher of New Market Press and publisher and CEO of Denton Publications. He may be reached at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.