From Fox News:
On paper, it sounded like a true government success story: The Social Security Administration in September opened a "state-of-the-art" data center in Maryland, housing wage and benefit information on almost every American, "on time and under budget."
However, six years after Congress approved a half-billion dollars for the project -- the largest building project funded by the 2009 stimulus -- a whistleblower says the center was built on a lie.
"We misled Congress," Michael Keegan, a former associate commissioner who worked on the project, told FoxNews.com.
Officials originally claimed they needed the $500 million to replace their entire, 30-year-old National Computer Center located at agency headquarters in Woodlawn, Md. But Keegan says they overstated their case -- the agency has no plans to replace the center, and only moved a fraction of the NCC to the new site. ...
Keegan maintains the agency didn't have to move anybody out of the NCC, and could have simply renovated the floor holding the old data center.
"The data center occupies one half of one floor in a four-story building," he told FoxNews.com. "We didn't need to build [the new center] to begin with." ...
Acting Commissioner Carolyn Colvin said in a deposition she "did not" know of any plan to abandon the NCC or move all its workers to another site. Other officials echoed this statement. ...
Former SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue, who led the agency under President George W. Bush and for several years under President Obama, also said he's not sure why the building isn't being replaced entirely.
Astrue said he made the original decision to replace the NCC, toward the end of the Bush administration. He said the building was "antiquated and fraying," and was worried a disruption in payments could send "the entire economy into recession." A backup SSA center in North Carolina, he said, was not enough.
Astrue said his intention was to replace and phase out the NCC entirely, and disputed Keegan's claims that Congress was misled. He maintains the proposal was the "correct decision."
But he said he was "surprised" to learn the NCC is still in operation. He doesn't know why. ...
When the Office of the Inspector General reviewed Keegan's complaints, it concluded the SSA "did not mislead" Congress to believe the NCC wouldn't be needed. At the same time, the OIG acknowledged SSA talked about "replacing" the center and "did not implicitly state" it would stay in use. (Further, while IG Patrick P. O'Carroll, Jr., oversaw the spending, he also was among those making the case for the project, telling Congress in 2009 the NCC was "rapidly approaching obsolescence.")
Like the OIG, the Office of Special Counsel last year also said they could not determine whether agency leaders misled Congress. Keegan disputes these findings.So what did Carolyn Colvin do wrong? She didn't order employees to make an unnecessary move to an unnecessary new building which was built at the insistence of her predecessor. If there's fault here, it's on Michael Astrue who insisted on building this expensive new structure instead of using stimulus money to hire additional personnel to work down the agency's backlogs. Much fault should also be laid at the door of the many members of Congress who were active cheerleaders for building the new National Data Center. My recollection is that Republican members of Congress were the biggest supporters of the new building. They always prefer spending money on contractors to spending money on hiring needed personnel.