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Reforms promised, officials removed following audit of troubled Obamacare site built by Oracle

Chris Kanaracus | March 24, 2014
A newly released, independent audit of Oregon's disastrous Obamacare website implementation takes both state officials and site contractor Oracle to task, saying each side contributed to problems that have generated a political firestorm in recent months.

A newly released, independent audit of Oregon's disastrous Obamacare website implementation takes both state officials and site contractor Oracle to task, saying each side contributed to problems that have generated a political firestorm in recent months.

The report by First Data was commissioned by Governor John Kitzhaber. It involved 67 interviews and a review of more than 3,200 documents, according to Kitzhaber's announcement late Thursday.

Cover Oregon, as the site is named, launched Oct. 1 along with the federal heath-care exchange, but like the latter it immediately suffered serious performance and stability problems. Unlike the national site, Healthcare.gov, Cover Oregon is still experiencing significant issues with no clear end in sight.

"Oregonians deserve accountability for the public investment made in this technology," Kitzhaber said in a statement. "It is critical that we learn from this project and adopt whatever changes are necessary to improve project management and safeguard public investments."

One way Kitzhaber is trying to deliver such accountability is through the removal of Oregon Health Authority Director Bruce Goldberg, who has resigned. However, Goldberg will continue serving as acting director of Cover Oregon until a new director is hired. Kitzhaber has also asked Cover Oregon's board to remove the site's CIO and chief operating officer.

First Data's findings echo another report done recently by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, concluding that state officials failed to provide proper levels of oversight on the project, as well as accountability for Oracle.

Cover Oregon hired Oracle consulting on a "time-and-materials" basis, with the state acting as the primary systems integrator and Oracle staff working under its direction.

This decision "contributed to a lack of scope control, a delay in requirements definition, and unrealistic delivery expectations," First Data said. "A system integrator with a stronger financial incentive for ensuring performance most likely would have pushed harder in those areas and been more realistic about delivery dates."

Meanwhile, the First Data report chronicles a long list of negative comments regarding Oracle staffers' performance on the project.

The website, which was built with Oracle software, also required far more customization than Oracle indicated it would. In addition, state officials interviewed for the report said they remained confident the project was on track due to constant assurances from Oracle.

First Data requested interviews with six Oracle employees, but that request was denied, Kitzhaber said during a press conference. Instead, Oracle sent its chief corporate architect, Edward Screven, he said.

Screven is a longtime Oracle employee who reports directly to CEO Larry Ellison. But despite Screven's high-level status, he was not actively involved with the project until November 2013. As a result, "we probably did not get some information that would have been useful," Kitzhaber said.

 

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