Accenture, the company hired to fix the troubled Obamacare website, has a record of problematic performance, technical malfunctions, and cost overruns on a number of public sector projects, raising concerns about its ability to deliver the essential remedies for HealthCare.gov.
According to The Washington Post
, nearly 30 projects run by Accenture in the United States and abroad have encountered problems, and the company lacks experience in the area of federal healthcare.
In North Carolina, glitches in a computer system configured by Accenture caused massive backlogs for food-stamp recipients. In Texas, a contact for the company to operate call centers to process social-service benefit applications led to "massive delays" in access to food stamps and healthcare for hundreds of thousands of low-income residents, according to the Post.
And between 2004 and 2007, the Pentagon and four states canceled Accenture contracts to develop online voting or voter-registration systems citing software flaws and inadequate computer security. There have also been problems with the firm's work on projects at the federal level, including work on a computer system for the Minerals Management Service. The U.S. Postal Service Inspector General's Office criticized the firm for ethical lapses, according to the Post.
Administration officials have defended the decision to award the $91 million one-year contract to the firm over three other companies who bid for it. They say Accenture has a breadth of resources and experience in building major online systems for federal agencies, and cited recent success in working with the California health-insurance marketplace to enroll large numbers of residents in health plans.
"Past performance was a key criteria when evaluating Accenture's potential to serve as the new contractor," an official, who declined to be named, told the Post.
The company insists it has extensive experience in healthcare projects at the state and local levels, and has worked on more than 1,000 federal, state, local projects in the past year.
"Accenture is known for taking on the most complex and mission-critical assignments and getting the job done," Jim McAvoy, an Accenture spokesman, told the Post. "We have long-term relationships with the world's leading companies, and our clients value our capabilities and our track record, and the quality of our work has been recognized."
Meanwhile, a number of industry observers say Accenture has a very good reputation and that all major contractors have some problems due to the complexity of IT projects.
"I think their error rate is pretty consistent with other large firms," Larry Allen, president of Allen Federal Business Partners and a 24-year federal IT professional, told the Post. "Does that excuse things they did wrong? No, but it does put it into context."
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