The White House Gets Ready To Dump the Contractor Behind

According to a report in the Washington Post, the Obama administration is just about ready to go ahead and dump the contractor behind the administration's exchange site.

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According to a report in The Washington Post, the Obama administration is just about ready to go ahead and dump the contractor behind CGI Federal's contract expires at the end of February, at which point the administration will reportedly sign a 12-month contract with CGI rival Accenture.

CGI was mainly responsible for getting the federal exchange site up and running by October 1, 2013. That, as you might have heard on television news programs, did not happen quite as planned. The company became a quick and easy scapegoat for the roll-out of the exchanges, an accusation that stuck as CGI slowly began to repair its own work. Even though the site seems to be working much better after a very bumpy October and November, the site is far from what the administration wants it to be. The Post explains:

Leaders of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services — which oversees the online marketplace — became frustrated with the pace and quality of CGI’s work on the repairs. As federal officials and contractors have been trying to fix various aspects of the Web site in the past few months, about half of the new software code the company has written has failed on the first try, according to internal federal information.

Previously, the Post detailed some of the lingering issues with the site. Those include an inability to enroll eligible Americans in state Medicaid programs automatically, and what are apparently calculation errors pertaining to individual eligibility for subsidies. It's not as visibly dramatic as a website that won't load, but these issues are still problematic.

CGI isn't popular with at least a couple of U.S. states, either: Massachusetts and Vermont are withholding payments to the contractor until their state exchange sites are properly functioning. The states are both reportedly exploring their legal options against CGI. In all likelihood, CGI deserves some, but not all, of the blame for the terrible launch of the federal exchanges: the company won its contract from the government in 2011, but reportedly didn't get specific instructions on what to do for the site until much later.

The federal government went with Accenture in part because of its relatively successful rollout of California's insurance exchange site. But Accenture doesn't have the kindest history with the feds. Three years ago, the company paid $63.675 million in a settlement related to a lawsuit alleging that the company submitted false claims for payment for a variety of contracts it held with government agencies. The firm denies the allegations from the suit.

Above: Cheryl Campbell, senior vice president of CGI Federal, testifies on Capitol Hill on October 24, 2013.

Update Monday, January 13: CGI Federal took issue with our use of the word "fired" to describe the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services's decision not to renew the company's contract when it expires in February. We have since changed the wording of our headline and first sentence.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.