April 11, 2014


Vermont Digger
Doug Hoffer

Doug Hoffer

The Vermont state auditor plans to look into how money was spent on Vermont Health Connect.

Auditor Doug Hoffer said he will conduct a performance audit of the state-run online insurance marketplace, perhaps later this year. He has not determined what the scope of the audit will be.

The problems associated with the Vermont Health Connect website have been well-documented.

Recently, a state consultant released a detailed report that said a smooth rollout of the online implementation of the program was hindered by the federally imposed launch date, changing federal expectations and requirements, Vermont’s failed negotiations with the tech firm Oracle and poor cohesion within the team provided by CGI, the state’s vendor for the project.

The BerryDunn report also blamed the project’s politicized nature, poor governance and a work culture that “does not encourage questioning, conflict, or engaged problem solving, and inexperienced leadership does not know when to raise issues above them.”

Hoffer thinks there’s still some meat on that bone.

“We’ve been collecting preliminary information and trying to determine what part of this beast we’ll address ourselves to,” he said.

There are a variety of aspects the planned performance audit could look at, he said, including whether money for the project was used wisely and in the intended manner.

Vermont received a federal earmark to implement its health care exchange of more than $170 million. The state is billing the feds for those costs as they come in, but the money is only available through the end of the year.

The majority was slated for CGI’s contract, which is worth $84 million. The contract is split — $54 million for implementation and development and $30 million for ongoing maintenance and operation of the website through its first two years.

As of last week, Vermont had paid out $54.2 million for a website that lacks full functionality, which is expected to be completed over the summer.

Hoffer said his office might probe the CGI’s adherence to the contract, the effectiveness of the project’s management team and the website’s security.

The auditor also exploring a partnership with federal auditors from the Health and Human Services Inspector General’s Office.

The feds plan to audit aspects of the federal rollout and at least some state-run exchanges, Hoffer said, and he invited representatives to discuss potential collaboration if they investigate Vermont.

Part of the purpose was to ensure the two don’t duplicate work, Hoffer said.

The Vermont Health Connect audit won’t begin for several months, Hoffer said, because his staff has four projects in the works. Once the audit begins, it would take at least six months to complete, he said.

Performance audits culminate in reports with findings and recommendations, which are released to state agencies, legislators and the public.

“This isn’t the last time the state is going to have to contract for complex IT projects,” Hoffer said, “If we can provide insights into how to better achieve those goals that’s value added.”