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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

Healthcare.gov contract comes to end for CGI

I guess the polite thing to say is that CGI Federal and Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services have decided to go their separate ways over the Healthcare.gov website.

The impolite thing to say is that CGI got fired.

Linda Odorisio, a spokeswoman for CGI, said the decision was mutual “to complete work on CGI’s contract for the Federally Facilitated Marketplace, in line with the previously scheduled February 2014 contract end date.

So, the contract ends in February with no options exercised. In this market, that’s not usually a happy ending, so this is a black mark on CGI's reputation.

The Washington Post is reporting that government has hired Accenture to take over CGI’s role.

Whether you call it a firing, the move by the government is the right thing to do. I’m not joining the chorus of CGI-naysayers; there is plenty of blame to go around for the problems with the federal health insurance exchange. Time will tell how much blame gets laid at CGI’s feet.

But Healthcare.gov has become such a political liability and such a hot potato that a firing really is the best way for the Obama Administration to move on. CGI will probably continue to be a scapegoat, with government officials pointing to them and saying, "We’ve moved on. We’re moving forward."

The fact that the government didn’t terminate CGI a couple months ago indicates to me that the problems with Healthcare.gov go beyond alleged poor performance by a contractor.

But even if time finds that most of the blame lies with CGI, that doesn’t translate into them being an incompetent contractor.

As one executive told me, “Show me a company that doesn’t have failed projects, and I’ll show you a company that isn’t taking risks and isn’t trying to innovate.”

For the record, this executive doesn’t work for CGI, and has worked both inside and outside government.

CGI takes a proud, positive stance in its statement about the end of the contract.

The “decision comes at a time when Healthcare.gov is performing well, due largely to CGI’s key role during the ‘tech surge,’” Odorisio said.

The company has had more than 400 employees working around the clock since October “to deliver a consumer experience that works for a vast majority of Americans.”

In the same statement, Odorisio says that the company has won nearly $37 million in contracts with CMS since October.

For its part, Accenture is being relatively quiet. Company spokeswoman Joanne Veto said it wasn’t “appropriate to discuss new business opportunities we may or may not be pursuing.”

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Jan 10, 2014 at 9:23 AM

Reader Comments

Mon, Jan 13, 2014 Not an Expert Washington, D.C.

While one has natural sympathy and empathy for a hardworking team member like the commenter who says s/he was "one of the individuals who worked on the project," let's get real. Sure, the government had a dumb acquisition strategy and incompetent oversight (what else is new?), but the company did just a few things wrong. This is hardly the AMS quality or spirit that founders such as Chas. Rosotti built into the (long-gone) culture. Even on a cost-plus-fixed-fee contract, one has to do some quality control. One has to be forthright about problems, not just bask in the cool breeze of little financial risk. Auditors, the Hill, the "media" have hardly revealed the details, but something was very , very wrong, and the company did not raise enough of a red flag to gain attention and participate in a fix. Like the govies, the company seems to have kicked the can down the road and become associated with issues rooted in the gross negligence of the WH staff and execs at the top of DHHS and the OPDIVs of the Department. This is the price we all pay for "the change we need." We got incompetence at the top of govt instead, and that is a tragedy for all of us.

Mon, Jan 13, 2014

I have been working as a vendor/contractor with the Federal Govt as a customer for 34 years. In all of my experiences project failures are generally a joint partnership between an overbearing customer, and an acquiescent contractor that does what the government asks in spite of their misgivings. The irony in this case is that Ted Cruz gave President Obama a chance to delay the whole thing, and look magnanimous in the process. But arrogance, ideology, and partisanship clouded the judgement of Obama, Reid and Pelosi. What else is new?

Mon, Jan 13, 2014 Don O'Neill

The Maryland health care web site mismanagement parallels the ACA web site experience failures.Inexplicably Maryland relied on contractors from North Dakota, Maine, Florida, and … yes, the Ukraine with its Cyber Security risks before discovering a contractor in Columbia, Maryland. What were they thinking?

Mon, Jan 13, 2014

Was the CGI contract obtained by a competitive bidding process?

Mon, Jan 13, 2014

As one of the individuals who worked on the project, I thank you for not slamming the company or the team. You are very correct in saying there is enough blame to go around....there are many things the government and the other contractors (including the gateway contractor QSSI) did and didn't do which could have caused a different outcome. However, there were many successes for the project as well so, in the world of technology advances, those successes should be acknowledged and celebrated as well. The dedicated team members who worked around the clock for many months should be rewarded and praised, not smacked up-sided the head and told they did something wrong.

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