Lawmakers question sole-source award to SAIC

Bipartisan leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are investigating the terms of a large sole-source contract awarded to a unit of Science Applications International Corp. by the Health and Human Services Department.

The department's National Cancer Institute awarded the contract to SAIC-Frederick, a subsidiary of SAIC, to provide operations and technical support to the institute's federally funded research and development center in Frederick. The award is valued at $5.2 billion over 10 years.

"Given the billions of taxpayer dollars that are at stake, we intend to look closely at how the National Cancer Institute awarded its sole-source contract to SAIC," Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chairman of the committee's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, said in a statement Nov. 12.

"We want to know who made the decision to award this contract, how they went about doing so and what, if any, safeguards are in place to prevent waste, fraud and abuse," Stupak said.

Stupak and three other committee leaders?Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.); Joe Barton (R-Texas) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.)?wrote to HHS officials on Nov. 12 seeking further information on what they describe as the largest contract of a private entity with HHS.

In the letter, the lawmakers ask for additional information on the SAIC contract and express concerns about its oversight and management. They also raise questions about the "integrity of the award process and whether conflict-of-interest issues involving SAIC-F and its employees were adequately handled."

According to the Government Accountability Office, the last time HHS put the operations and technical support contract out for competitive bid in 2001, SAIC was the only bidder. In 2006, HHS put out a special notice of its intent to make the award to SAIC, while noting that other contractors had expressed interest.

The GAO recently issued a report to the committee on its review of safeguards against conflicts of interest affecting employees at federally funded research and development centers. Of the agencies included in the review, HHS was found to be lacking such protections.

Company officials said today they are preparing a response.

SAIC, of San Diego, ranks No. 5 on Washington Technology's 2008 Top 100 list of the largest federal government prime contractors.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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