Healthcare.gov, the Obamacare website, has been live for barely two weeks and has operated so poorly during its short existence that it seems certain to replace the Pentagon's infamous $600 toilet seats as the face of federal waste and fraud.
It's bad enough that the Department of Health and Human Services had more than three years to develop the site, and spent more than $500 million in the process, yet still produced a failure of epic proportions.
Even worse is the emerging story being reported by Washington Examiner investigative reporter Richard Pollock of how HHS tried to do it without competitive bidding and behind closed doors.
As Pollock reported Oct. 10, the main contract to design and build Healthcare.gov went to the U.S. subsidiary of a Canadian IT firm, CGI Federal.
CGI got the contract despite a checkered history that included being terminated by Ontario provincial government officials for chronically missing deadlines and failing to produce an online medical registry for diabetes sufferers and treatment providers.
Today, Pollock details the murky path HHS officials followed to give the Healthcare.gov project's $93 million design project to CGI.
This will probably shock Republicans everywhere, but that path started with decisions made during President George W. Bush's tenure in the White House.
"CMS officials are tight-lipped about why CGI was chosen or how it happened. They also refuse to say if other firms competed with CGI, or if there was ever a public solicitation for building Healthcare.gov, the backbone of Obamacare’s problem-plagued web portal," Pollock reports.
"Instead, it appears they used what amounts to a federal procurement system loophole to award the work to the Canadian firm," Pollock said.
CGI was one of 16 firms approved by HHS in 2007 to be awarded "task orders" under "a little-known federal contracting system called ID/IQ, which is government jargon for 'Indefinite Delivery and Indefinite Quantity,'” according to Pollock.
Since 2007, CGI received 185 task orders for work valued at more than $678 million, according to federal contract databases reviewed by Pollock. The Obamacare website design work was valued at $93 million.
It's far from clear at this point why HHS felt so comfortable doing business with a Canadian firm instead one of the many U.S. IT firms with better performance records on government contracts.
What is clear is this: Bad things often happen when government officials go behind closed doors to deal with favored contractors who didn't have to win an open, competitive bidding process to collect hundreds of millions of tax dollars for work that may or may not be completed on time, on budget and on quality.
In Today's Washington Examiner:
Byron York: An alternative history of the last two months.
Joseph Lawler: Debt limit countdown for the week ahead in economics.
Philip Klein: Smooth functioning may be months away for Obamacare website.
David Freddoso: Conservatives hew to principle when it doesn't matter.
In Other News:
The Washington Post: Bitter feud between Reid, McConnell could prevent a deal.
The New York Times: Privacy fears grow as cities increase surveillance.
The Washington Times: U.S. allies let funds flow to al Qaeda in Syria.
Talking Points Memo: We're not that far apart on debt deal.
Mother Jones: Here's who profits if the government defaults.
The Weekly Standard: Health reform breaks bad.
National Review Online: Graham joins Vitter in fight over Hill's Obamacare carve-out.
The Wall Street Journal: Senate Democrats press new front in shutdown battle.