The Oracle Debacle at CoverOregon

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It’s always been a challenge to put trust in government. From the Internal Revenue Service to the way legislators are influenced by affluent special interests, taxpayers in this country have few good things to say about how different entities of our government manage projects, contain budgets and make decisions. But that’s nothing compared to the colossal screw up of both CoverOregon and ObamaCare.

Most alarming is that while the new healthcare programs are managed by appointed paid federal and state directors, the true problems rest with the companies hired to implement these massive information technology projects. How can this be? We hold business in high regard, believing that they are well suited to implement their promised tasks. Not so though with Oracle, the company hired to design and execute the CoverOregon program.

Part of the problem lies with the way the contract with Oracle was prepared. Instead of using a performance based contract, CoverOregon Executive Director Rocky King allowed the company to operate on a time and materials agreement. What is the incentive in that? Oracle Corporation, headquartered in Redwood City, California, is an multinational computer technology company specializing in developing and marketing computer hardware systems and enterprise software products – particularly its own brands of database management systems.

Oracle also builds tools for database systems, like they were suppose to do for CoverOregon. It is the second-largest software maker by revenue, after Microsoft. Oracle, which has already received some $60 million for its effort, has missed deadlines  and conducted substandard work on the state’s badly designed and nonworking website.

Last May the state’s information technology expert with the Department of Administrative Services warned CoverOregon that Oracle’s status reports on the exchange were non-compliant, omitted clear information, showed a lack of performance and did not fulfill basic standards of project management work  according to records received by The Oregonian.To try and save the day  Governor Kitzhaber recently outlined new resources, support and accountability for CoverOregon to help boost enrollment in health insurance.

The Governor appointed Greg Van Pelt, former CEO of Providence Health System Oregon and current president of Oregon Health Leadership Council, to lend his expertise and provide an independent, outsider’s view of Cover Oregon, with a focus on making sure that Cover Oregon is dedicating appropriate resources, and in the right way, to improve the system and secure coverage for Oregonians signing up for plans beginning in January.

 
The Governor also asked Dr. Bruce Goldberg, director of the Oregon Health Authority, to oversee the application, eligibility and enrollment process itself. Dr. Goldberg will be focused on ensuring that applications are processed quickly, efficiently, and accurately, and that everyone who has applied for coverage is enrolled in a plan.

 
In the meantime the director (Rocky King) and his team at CoverOregon are suppose to focus on getting the website fully functional and assure Oracle meets its milestones and deadlines. It’s hard to believe that a company like Oracle would not only deliver shabby work but their shenanigans will hardly be reprimanded, certainly not through financial detriments. In fact, they will likely be paid even more to get the website working. 

If this happened in your company and a contractor did not fulfill its obligations you would fire them immediately. If you were running a company and your employees were performing substandard work you would fire them immediately.We should ask why Oregon hired Oracle in the first place when it has had numerous lawsuits filed against it on poorly delivered work.

Computer Sciences Corporation reportedly spent a billion dollars developing a computer system over the past seven years for the United States Air Force that yielded no significant capability, because, according to Brig. Gen. Kathryn Johnson, the Air Force’s director of system integration, the Oracle software on which the system was based could not be adapted to meet the specialized performance criteria.

In 2010 the U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against Oracle Corporation alleging fraud. The lawsuit argues that the government received deals inferior to those Oracle gave to its commercial clients. 

In 2012 the U.S. General Services Administration banned Oracle from the most popular portal for bidding on GSA contracts for undisclosed reasons. Oracle has previously used this portal for around four hundred million dollars a year in revenue. Oracle previously settled a lawsuit filed under the False Claims Act, which accused the company of overbilling the U.S. government between 1998 and 2006.

The 2011 settlement forced Oracle to pay $199.5 million to the GSA. Larry Ellison, a co-founder of Oracle, has served as Oracle’s CEO throughout its history. In 2008, the Associated Press ranked Ellison as the top-paid chief executive in the world. Ellison needs to come to Oregon and fix his company’s mess at no cost to Oregon!

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