Congress may conduct an investigation into the surprising report that the Internal Revenue Service awarded a $4.5 million IT contract to CGI Federal, the discredited designer of the botched Obamacare website, HealthCare.gov.
In response to The Daily Caller’s disclosure Wednesday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, (R-Utah), the new incoming chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has instructed his staff to examine the reasons why the IRS awarded the contract to CGI. (RELATED: BOMBSHELL: IRS Has Active Contract For MILLIONS With Company HHS FIRED Over Botched Healthcare.gov)
“Committee staff is looking into the matter,” Chaffetz said in an email to The Daily Caller.
An official probe into the IRS decision could embarrass President Obama, who in the wake of the CGI-Obamacare fiasco, issued a high profile pledge to reform federal IT procurement.
A new IT procurement survey released Thursday, however, shows the Obama administration has made little progress in forcing accountability into the largely hidden world of government IT contracting.
Rep. Chaffetz told TheDC he suspected the same mismanagement problems that plagued Obamacare exist at the IRS.
“I am concerned that this type of mismanagement will be repeated by the current administration under the new IRS contract,” he said.
Chaffetz, who succeeds outgoing chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, (R-CA) is expected to continue to aggressively pursue government wrongdoing and mismanagement in the administration. He chairs a committee that enjoys wide jurisdiction over many federal programs.
Grover Norquist, the president of the influential Americans for Tax Reform, a tax advocacy group, agreed there should be an investigation into the IRS contract awarded to CGI.
“This calls for serious investigation and people should be brought in under oath about how this could happen,” he told TheDC.
Norquist also said it seemed clear to him that the administration had learned little from the Obamacare debacle.
“This is proof that the administration learned nothing from the failure of the rollout of the Obamacare website,” he concluded. “It means nothing has changed.”
Dave Williams, president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, a Washington-based advocacy group told TheDC, “This is absolutely incredible. How does the federal government contract with the same firm that messed up the Obamacare site? It boggles the mind.”
Williams said the revelation breeds cynicism among citizen views of Washington. “All citizens are just dumbfounded when they see these kind of decisions coming out of Washington, D.C.”
Speaking at a November 2013 fundraising dinner for top Democratic donors shortly after the Obamacare website failed, President Obama publicly vowed to fix federal IT procurement.
“There are a whole range of things we’re going to need to do once we get this fixed, to talk about federal procurement when it comes to IT and how that’s organized,” Obama said then.
However, a 2014 Acquisition Policy Survey of IT executives issued Thursday by the Professional Services Council and the Grant Thornton consulting firm suggests that despite the rhetoric, the administration has done very little to reform IT government procurement.
The survey concluded, “A solid majority indicated that things have not improved overall or not improved sufficiently to ‘move the needle.’”
The IRS contract awarded to CGI was issued under a competitive bidding process.
Former IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson, who served under President Bush’s administration, said based on the “professionalism” of the IRS procurement division, the tax agency was merely following federal guidelines.
“My experience with their procurement group at the IRS was positive. I think that is very different than what happened at HHS where the design of that website was abysmal,” he told TheDC.
Stan Soloway, the president of the Professional Services Council (which counts CGI as one of its members), also defended the IRS.
“I have faith the Internal Revenue Service was well aware of the challenges of Healthcare.gov and took a very close look at their capabilities CGI,” Soloway said. “If anything, they would have been biased against making that judgment.”
However, A.R. Trey Hodgkins, a senior vice president of the Information Technology Industry Council says there are many barriers that prevent innovative IT companies from entering the government procurement process.
In a January 2014 blog, he wrote, “it is important to keep in mind that troubled IT program rollouts, like Healthcare.gov, are symptomatic of broader systemic failures in federal acquisition,” adding, “In order to encourage more competition in the federal public sector, we need to find ways to reduce barriers to entering and staying in the market.”
A spokesman for CGI would comment to TheDC that, “CGI has successfully supported the IRS for more than a decade, and continues to do so.”