Why did the Internal Revenue Service hire the same company that ruined HealthCare.gov to build the Obamacare tax system? Congress wants answers.
An oversight subcommittee of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee has decided to officially investigate the IRS’s decision to award a $4.5 million IT contract to CGI Federal, the notorious Canadian IT company that was fired because of its key role in the Obamacare website fiasco.
On Friday, oversight chairman Rep. Peter J. Roskam sent a letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen demanding documents related to the decision.
In the letter — obtained by The Daily Caller — the lawmaker requested the IRS turn over the actual CGI contract, internal IRS communications on the award, bidding information from CGI’s competitors, as well as the names of IRS officials who approved the award.
The chairman fast-tracked his request, telling the IRS commissioner his subcommittee expected the documents to be turned over within two weeks time, and no later than February 6.
Roskam’s move constitutes the second time in as many days a congressional oversight body has decided that it would investigate the CGI award. The Daily Caller first disclosed the existence of the $4.5 million contract on Tuesday.
In his letter, Roskam said he was “concerned” the IRS hired CGI after officials at U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the states of Vermont and Massachusetts fired the company for failure to design properly operating Obamacare websites.
Roskam told the commissioner he was troubled that even after the firings, “the IRS selected the same contractor to provide critical technology services to the administration of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” — also known as Obamacare.
Thursday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform told TheDC he had instructed his staff to see if the government’s fiasco over Obamacare was being repeated by the IRS.
“I am concerned that this type of mismanagement will be repeated by the current administration under the new IRS contract,” he told TheDC via email.
This is the first year the IRS will process millions of American tax returns that demand taxpayer information on health care.
It also is the first time that Obamacare policymakers will be required to confirm household income and other private information to prove they were eligible for low-cost insurance through government subsidies.
Obamacare enrollees who earned too much money last year or misreported their income may face a smaller tax refund or actually pay additional money out of pocket.
Taxpayers with insufficient health coverage may also face penalties.
The IRS software is particularly important this year because, for the first time in the agency’s history, the IRS has adopted a so-called “web-only” strategy to provide assistance to taxpayers who have health-care questions about their tax return.
Live telephone service will not be available to those with Obamacare or health-care questions, according to Nina Olson, the U.S. Taxpayer Advocate, who is independent of the IRS.
Last April, Olson, in testimony largely ignored by the media, warned senators about the IRS’s “web-only strategy.”
“While other agencies have telephone or web chat options, the IRS has adopted a web-first strategy that acts more as a ‘web-only’ strategy, limiting taxpayers’ access to in-person assistance with tax-related health care questions,” she told the Senate subcommittee on Financial Services then.
“The IRS has specifically advised its assistors the best service to the customer is to provide the web URLs. This is known as the ‘Web First’ strategy,’” she told the senators.
Congressman Roskam has been deeply critical of the IRS and intimately involved in previous crises at the IRS.
He was one of the key lawmakers at the center of the congressional investigation last year into the IRS’s targeting of conservative organizations.
The congressman was also the prime sponsor of legislation that barred the IRS from inquiring about religious, political or social beliefs of citizens.
In his current letter to Koskinen, the chairman also wondered if the agency was squandering money by hiring companies that have a shoddy performance record.
“Given your publicly-stated concerns about resource challenges at the IRS, I am seeking assurances that taxpayer dollars are being put to their highest and best use,” he wrote.
In addition to seeking all internal IRS communications regarding the hiring of CGI Federal, Roskam requested a description of “when and how the IRS decided to hire CGI Federal, including the names of all IRS personnel involved in the decision-making process.”
He further asked the tax agency to turn over the August 11, 2014 contract with CGI, as well as official bids from competitors.
The Illinois Republican also asked for “[a] description of the controls the IRS has in place for this project to ensure that the problems associated with Healthcare.gov and the state exchange websites do not arise with this project.”
The IRS has refused to respond to several requests for comment from TheDC.
See the letter: