Mar 19, 2009

OIG Criticism For Barnhart

From a report by Social Security's Office of Inspector General(emphasis added):
SSA contracted with Abt to develop the Benefit Offset National Demonstration (BOND) project to test alternate methods of treating work activity in the Title II disability program. The contract states that after the design is completed, subsequent phases of this demonstration are to be awarded to the same contractor on a sole-source basis for the project's implementation, data collection, and evaluation and management. This award will be contingent upon successful performance of the design phase. A $2.4 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract was awarded to Abt with a period of performance from September 2004 to September 2006. Because of contract modifications and additional task orders, the contract was extended to September 2008 at a total cost of approximately $10.6 million. ...

We found that Abt generally adhered to the terms of the contract and delivered the services and final design options that SSA asked for under the contract. However, we have several concerns about the delays and costs associated with the design phase. While SSA is required by law to continue with the demonstration project, we are concerned that the multiple modifications extended the contract period from 2 to 4 years, and the design phase costs increased to $10.6 million, or $8.2 million more than initially expected. We believe approximately $5.3 million, or half of the total costs, could have been put to better use had the contract been better focused and completed within the initial timeframe. ...

Prior SSA management [when Jo Anne Barnhart was Commissioner of Social Security] demonstrated inadequate oversight of the contract's planning, scope and expenditures. ... For instance, while the Office of Management and Budget requires enhanced controls over cost-reimbursement contracts, in our review of invoices, we were unable to determine whether the contractor over- or under-billed for a specific task due. Furthermore, the contract was not monitored in a way that allowed for quickly detecting or avoiding cost overruns for tasks. Moreover, we found that SSA did not perform timely interim contractor performance evaluations, as required by the contract and recommended by the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR).
This is the sort of report that the current Inspector General just did not do while George W. Bush was President. He seemed to regard criticism of contractors or high Social Security officials as out of bounds. Now he is only criticizing what happened when Social Security had a different Commissioner. When George W. Bush was President, the Inspector General reports seemed to focus on overpayments to claimants with the strong implication that any overpayment was the result of fraud. Overpayments are a valid area of inquiry for the Inspector General, but in an agency the size of Social Security there are bound to be blunders made in contracting and those blunders are also a valid area of inquiry. When it comes to overpayments, few of them are due to out and out fraud. Much of the time Social Security itself is at least partly to blame for the overpayment.


Nancy Ortiz said...

Is this the same IG I remember from 2000-2003? That IG did some good work in programs, documents, and wage postings or other similar issues. Nothing fancy but solid work.

This sounds weird. Whaddaya mean fraud? It's not often you find similar fault, let alone outright fraud. You need to prove intent, and it's just about impossible to prove "beyond a shadow." And, program fraud is way down on the list of favs for US Attorneys. What jury is gonna put a 73 year old grandmother in jail for keeping her deceased husband's RIB checks?

I remember a case involving homeless people rounded up off the street and put in board 'n care homes in LA and the Valley over several years. Several disappeared, others died as a result of apparent abuse or neglect. Nothing happened even though the DM basically did all the work. Local police did nothing with the possible homicides, nothing regarding the criminal conspiracies to defraud victims of their checks, and ultimately the whole thing was almost a career ender for my friend.

I'd sure like to see what this guy means by fraud. Presumably it does not include mere "cost over-runs" in poorly adminstered contracts. Mffff.

Anonymous said...


This is not the IG, this is about the Commissioner of SS Joanne Barnhart.

The IG is Pat O'Carroll and he has been IG since November 2004.

The IG before Pat O'Carroll in the time frame you were talking about was Jim Huse

Nancy Ortiz said...

Thanks. Now I understand. Yep, got it.