Senior officials at the Social Security Administration (SSA) tried to hide a damning report on a $300 million computer system that lawmakers have called a “boondoggle” in order to protect President Obama’s nominee to lead the agency, a whistleblower claimed in an interview with FoxNews.com.
Whistleblower Michael Keegan told FoxNews.com that McKinsey & Company, a consulting firm, issued a draft report in December 2013 saying the agency had spent $288 million over six years for a new computer system processing disability claims that has yet to launch.
But Keegan said he was present at a meeting of senior officials in May of this year where they decided to sit on the report as long as Carolyn Colvin’s nomination for commissioner was pending.
“They hid the report,” he told FoxNews.com.
Keegan said it was discussed at that May meeting that Colvin, the acting commissioner, had been briefed on the findings.
He added: “There is absolutely no way that [Colvin] could be in the dark” on the effort to hide it.
Keegan spoke with FoxNews.com after Republican senators threatened earlier this week to block Colvin’s nomination until a probe of the computer project is done. Keegan, who worked as associate commissioner for facilities and left the agency earlier this year, explained that he brought his concerns to Congress over the summer.
The McKinsey report itself, a final version of which was released in June, said the project, which remains in the testing phase and predated Colvin’s time at the helm, was beset by delays -- and agency leaders had decided to “reset.”
The study found that while the plan is “conceptually sound,” execution “has fallen short.” For the past five years, the report said, the release date “consistently” was projected 24-32 months out.
The report, together with Keegan’s allegations and the concerns of lawmakers, point to trouble ahead for Colvin’s nomination. Obama nominated Colvin, who has served as acting head since early 2013, in June of this year to be commissioner.
Several top-ranking lawmakers have been beating the drum about the $300 million computer system since the summer, including about the possibility of a cover-up.
House oversight committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and other lawmakers wrote in July that whistleblowers had told them “senior agency staff placed a very close hold” on the report to make sure details were kept “secret” until after Colvin’s confirmation. They called these claims “deeply disturbing.”
Further, they wrote that the agency effectively “wasted” $300 million on the “IT boondoggle.”
Around the same time, Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, who leads the House Social Security subcommittee, wrote to Colvin questioning whether the agency had “something to hide.” He called the “wasted” taxpayer dollars a “disgrace.”
Lawmakers’ concerns culminated earlier this week when all Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee wrote to Colvin complaining about the “disturbing” allegations over “mismanagement and waste.”
They cited an “interim” report by the agency’s inspector general “that raised, but did not resolve” issues with officials’ conduct, and an ongoing “criminal investigation.”
They wrote: “Moreover, we have received information from whistleblowers that the ongoing investigation has centered around the activities of certain members of your immediate office, including several high-level agency officials. We cannot in good faith allow a nomination for any position that requires the advice and consent of the Senate to proceed to a vote as long as the specter of a potential criminal investigation surrounds the nominee and/or those in their inner circle.”
The lawmakers urged Colvin to address her role regarding this inquiry before they can vote on the nomination before the full Senate.
A Social Security spokeswoman told the Associated Press, in response to the senators’ letter, that Colvin “is not personally the subject of any criminal investigation."
Spokeswoman LaVenia LaVelle said agency officials previously briefed lawmakers on this matter and "the acting commissioner will respond timely and fully to the members' requests, and continue to cooperate with Congress and any related investigation."
Colvin also told the AP that she's "always met the highest ethical standards."
Asked Friday about Keegan’s specific claims, LaVelle told FoxNews.com the agency “cannot comment on an open investigation.”
She referred FoxNews.com to the inspector general’s office, which also could not comment and said the case is now being handled by its counterpart in the Small Business Administration. An aide in that office would not discuss the probe, but confirmed they were reviewing an "allegation of wrongdoing involving SSA personnel."
The finance committee advanced Colvin’s nomination earlier this year, but it still hasn’t passed the full Senate. The problems could mean her nomination is pushed off to the new Congress next year, when Republicans have full control.
Morris Fischer, an attorney representing Keegan, called the computer project a “debacle.”
Keegan left the agency over the summer, after he says he was retaliated against for earlier complaints.
He said he first brought his concerns to Congress after watching Colvin claim during a House subcommittee hearing in February that the agency’s IT projects were on track and under budget.
“I knew that that was totally false,” Keegan said.