Firm Behind ObamaCare Mess Is ... Unusual

At CGI Federal, employees 'make their own jobs'

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 29, 2013 2:43 AM CST

(Newser) – How did the company that built the bulk of HealthCare.gov manage to bungle it so badly? There may be some clues in the corporate ethos of CGI Federal, Newsweek finds in an extensive look at the Canadian IT pioneer that now holds hundreds of government contracts in the US and abroad. At CGI, founder Serge Godin's unusual management philosophy still holds sway, with little in-house training for employees who are expected to "manage themselves" and "make their own jobs" by tracking down projects within the company, former execs say. The company doesn't even track sick days—but employees who go three weeks without finding a project can be fired. Most of its workers are classed as consultants and benefit from profit-sharing schemes.

But beyond the corporate ethos—which extends to the firm having its own "constitution"—there are allegations of shady accounting practices, underhanded methods of winning projects, and a general sense that contractors have become so deeply embedded in federal agencies that "they think they’re part of the government," in the words of a senior technology exec. The long-term consequences of the HealthCare.gov mess for the company are still unclear, but another contractor involved has already been replaced, reports the Wall Street Journal. Hewlett-Packard has signed a contract to serve as the project's web-hosting provider, replacing Verizon subsidiary Terremark. The switch, which means technical work will continue for months, was arranged before ObamaCare's botched launch, but sources say big problems with Terremark's hosting were apparent years ago.

Cheryl Campbell, senior vice president of CGI Federal, testifies on Capitol Hill last month.
Cheryl Campbell, senior vice president of CGI Federal, testifies on Capitol Hill last month.   (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
The US Department of Health and Human Services' main landing web page for HealthCare.gov.
The US Department of Health and Human Services' main landing web page for HealthCare.gov.   (AP Photo/U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
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