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HHS Chief Seeks Investigation Into Obamacare Website Contracts

“I am requesting that your office undertake a review of the work of our contractors, and the management of and payments to those contractors, in the development of HealthCare.gov,” Kathleen Sebelius wrote.

“I am requesting that your office undertake a review of the work of our contractors, and the management of and payments to those contractors, in the development of HealthCare.gov,” Kathleen Sebelius wrote. // J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Tuesday asked the department’s inspector general to investigate the contracting process behind the government’s botched rollout of the online health insurance exchange in October.

In a letter to Inspector General Daniel Levinson, Sebelius said it’s critical to understand the factors that contributed to the failed launch of HealthCare.gov. “I am requesting that your office undertake a review of the work of our contractors, and the management of and payments to those contractors, in the development of HealthCare.gov,” she wrote.

Specifically, she requested an investigation of the acquisition process; contractor selection and project management; contractor performance and monitoring; and payments to contractors throughout the process.

In a blog post on HHS’ website this morning, Sebelius said the investigation was one in a series of steps she was announcing to “better understanding the structural and managerial policies that led to the flawed launch of HealthCare.gov.”

“These actions will also focus on our work with contractors. This is critical, because HHS is the third largest federal contracting agency, and CMS alone spent $5.3 billion in 2013 on contracting engagements. We must take steps to ensure that our contractors are well managed, and that they fulfill their commitments and provide good services and products for our tax dollars.”

In addition to requesting the IG investigation, Sebelius asked Marilyn Tavenner, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the HHS agency responsible for developing the health exchange website, to create a new position for a chief risk officer at the agency.

“The chief risk officer’s first assignment will be to review risk management practices when it comes to IT acquisition and contracting, starting with identifying the risk factors that impeded the successful launch of the HealthCare.gov website,” Sebelius said.  “I will ask this individual to report back to me in 60 days with recommendations for strategies to mitigate risks in future large-scale, CMS contracting and IT acquisition projects.”

Finally, she said CMS will update and expand employee training on best practices for contractor and procurement management, rules and procedures. 

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