Government Contracting Attorneys RedstoneGCIThe Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare) continues to be an embarrassment to the current administration and those in the Legislative Branch who voted to pass the Act (but apparently failed to read it before voting).   In addition to the dysfunctional website, we now know that other means to “sign-up” were not exactly good alternatives because the other means (i.e. telephone or written application) ultimately depended upon, but if you talked to someone and they took your information, at least it felt like you were signing-up.   Perhaps that’s what is meant by the over used term transparency.

An article today highlighted the fact that state sponsored exchanges have been successful in large part due to better planning and more extensive testing by the agencies and contractors involved in system design and implementation (sounds like “basic stuff” before flipping the switch).   As with any other embarrassing failure by the federal government, the predictable fallout associated with includes “the blame game”; in this case, that the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) initially took responsibility (attempting to deflect criticism from the President).  However, the HHS Secretary was not quite so noble in terms of accepting blame as she in turn blamed the various contractors; not exactly a new strategy within the current administration which blames past and present contractors for virtually anything which has failed to meet expectations.

Coincidentally, “failing to meet expectations” is the exact terminology used by the HHS Secretary in faulting government contractors for the failures of and even more coincidental that the HHS Secretary did not state that contractor(s) failed to meet requirements.  There is a significant distinction between government expectations and government contract requirements and if the “requirements” did not meet “expectations”, the government agency is ultimately responsible for mismanaging the contract.  Although the HHS Secretary has asserted that HHS is blameless and contractors are wholly to blame, the issue does involve the same government agency which was criticized in a 2007 GAO report for failing to adequately perform contract and contractor oversight “resulting in millions of dollars of questionable contract payments” (GAO-08-54; November 2007).  Further suggesting culpability on the part of HHS, apparently at least one of the government contractors advised HHS of potential issues in early September 2013 (after completing work in August 2013).  However, an HHS spokesperson stated that the list of potential issues “was not a dire warning, but more of a list of things we needed to do”.   One more sign that HHS has significant culpability to the extent HHS apparently did not comprehend that a contractor statement that there was not enough time for adequate performance testing is much closer to a “dire warning” than it is to a “list of things we need to do”.

The public blame game--just one more risk for government contractors.

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Written by Michael Steen

Michael Steen Mike Steen is a Emeritus Advisor with Redstone Government Consulting, Inc. and a specialist in complex compliance issues to include major contractor cost accounting & business system regulations, financial compliance, resolution of DCAA audit issues, Cost Accounting Standards application, litigation support, and claims preparation. Prior to joining Redstone Government Consulting, Mike served in a number of capacities with DCAA for over thirty years, and upon his retirement, he was one of the top seven senior executives with DCAA. Mike Served as a Regional Director for two DCAA regions, and during that time was responsible for audits of approximately $25B and 800 employees. In October 2001, he was selected for the Senior Executive Service and in 2006 he received the Presidential Rank Award. During Mike’s tenure with DCAA, he was involved in conducting or managing a variety of compliance audits, to include cost proposals, billing systems, Cost Accounting Standards, claims, defective pricing, and then-evolving programs such as restructuring, financial capability and agreed-upon procedures. He directly supported the government litigation team on significant contract disputes and has prepared and presented various lectures and seminars to DCAA staff and business community leaders. Since joining Redstone Government Consulting in June 2007, Mike has developed and presented training and seminars on Government Contracts Compliance to NCMA, Federal Publications Seminars and various clients. Mike also is a prolific contributor of written articles to government contracting publications, as well as to our own Government Insights Newsletter. Mike also serves as the director of our training service offerings, with responsibilities for preparing and developing course content as well as instructing our seminars to clients and general audiences throughout the U.S. Mike also serves as a faculty instructor for the Federal Publications Seminars organization. Education Mike has a BS Degree in Business Administration from Wichita State University. He is also a graduate of the DCAA Director’s Fellowship Program in Management, and has a Masters Degree in Administration from Central Michigan University. Mr. Steen also completed a number of OPM’s management and executive development courses.

About Redstone GCI

Redstone Government Consultants are a team of the most senior industry veterans and the brightest new talent in the industry. Many have held senior government positions including leadership roles in the DCAA. Our new talents bring significant accounting and software experience along with fresh perspectives, inspiration and energy to our team. Through our leadership and combined experience, we provide a unique perspective, bringing both government and contractor proficiencies to bear and ensuring rock-solid government compliance for our clients.

Topics: Obamacare, Contracts Administration