Accenture, the contractor hired to fix ongoing problems with the federal health exchange website, has been heavily criticized by some of its largest clients, including federal agencies, according to a published report.
The Washington Post reports that the U.S. Postal Service Inspector General's Office recommended this past June that the agency consider terminating more than $200 million in contracts with Accenture. The recommendation cited an "absence of business ethics" by the firm, including a 2011 settlement with the Justice Department to resolve allegations of "kickbacks" and "bid-rigging" in federal contracts. Accenture, which paid $63 million to resolve the claims, denied the allegations.
The Obama administration announced last month that it had tapped Accenture to become the lead contractor for Healthcare.gov after cutting ties with CGI Federal, which handled the site's troubled launch this past Oct. 1. Technical glitches blocked many prospective customers from initially using the site, and while enrollment has picked up, the numbers have struggled to recover from the early setback and reach the administration's benchmarks.
Accenture's contract to oversee Healthcare.gov is believed to be for one year and worth an estimated $91 million. Experts interviewed by the Post were divided over whether Accenture was the right choice to tackle the ongoing problems of the site, with one IT consulting firm executive saying Accenture was "at the top of the stack" in the industry. However, the same executive also questioned whether Accenture's relative lack of experience in health care would be an issue. Citing the government spending tracker website USASpending.gov, the Post reported that less than $50 million of Accenture's $10 billion in federal contracts has involved the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
The Post reports that nearly 30 projects undertaken by Accenture over the past 10 years have encountered problems like technical malfunctions and cost overruns. Among the troublesome federal projects spotlighted by the Post include a computer system for the Department of the Interior's Mineral Management Service, which regulates the oil industry. A 2007 report quoted an accounted as telling auditors that the system took longer to use than the one it replaced.
Between 2004 and 2007, the Post reports that the Pentagon and four states canceled Accenture contracts to develop online voting for voter registration systems. And in 2006, a report by the IT firm The Wendell Group blasted a tax office computer system for the District of Columbia developed by Accenture. The report found that the system incorrectly calculated penalties and interest on tax bills and called it "poorly designed" and "mismanaged."
"There is a real concern," Daniel I Gordon, the former head of government procurement policy for the Obama administration, told the Post. "This company has problems in their past performance that are relevant and recent ... The real question is whether the government did its due diligence."