WASHINGTON — Management failures by the Obama administration set the stage for computer woes that paralyzed the president's new health care program last fall, nonpartisan investigators said in a report released Wednesday.
While the administration was publicly assuring consumers they would soon have seamless online access to health insurance, a chaotic procurement process was about to deliver a stumbling start.
After a months-long investigation, the Government Accountability Office found that the administration lacked "effective planning or oversight practices" for the development of HealthCare.gov, the portal for millions of uninsured Americans.
As a result the government incurred "significant cost increases, schedule slips and delayed system functionality," William Woods, a GAO contracting expert, said in testimony prepared for a hearing today by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The GAO is the nonpartisan investigative agency of Congress.
The investigators recommended a cost-control plan and changes to set clear procedures and improve oversight.
Spokesman Aaron Albright said the administration takes its responsibility for contract oversight seriously and has already started carrying out improvements that go beyond GAO's recommendations.
But Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said "millions of taxpayer dollars were wasted to build a website that didn't work, all because of bureaucratic incompetence."
Investigators found that the administration kept changing orders for the HealthCare.gov website, creating widespread confusion and adding tens of millions of dollars in costs. Changes were ordered 40 times when government officials did not have initial authority to incur additional costs.