Invoices Throw Light on Questionable Expenses Billed for Faulty Health Exchange Site
Updated: Wednesday, March 5 2014, 05:17 PM EST
A heated debate in Annapolis last week received little attention but could have pricey implications for the state's beleaguered Health Exchange website.
State Delegate Ron George is concerned about a now-passed Health Exchange Procurement bill, warning that the result will be even less public scrutiny on how the state spent $260 million and counting, on a website beleaguered with problems.
For almost two months FOX45 has been fighting a behind-the-scenes battle with the state to obtain invoices from the vendors who made millions working on the error prone site. Even after filing legal requests for documents the state said they had time to turn over only 10 documents.
The 10 invoices from a half dozen firms reveal millions in spending that offer a glimpse of just how lucrative the project was for outside firms but bills from contractors in the documents aren't itemized, resulting in more questions than answers.
One invoice shows a contractorn - J. Cain and Company - billing $200 an hour, for a total of $36,800, with few details. FOX45 called the company to learn how they came up with their figures and were told it's all the state ever asked them to submit, maintaining that their rate was justified.
Then invoices from advertising firm Weber Shandwick amounting to $50,000 includes just one single line. FOX45 contacted them and was referred, again, to the state.
On another invoice, Xerox, the city's former vendor for its failed speed camera program, billed the state $1,8 million for work on the website, with very little explanation.
Among other confusing items was a $3,000 bill for a "launch meeting."
According to Health and Human Hygiene Director Joshua Sharfstein, whose agency supervised the development of the Health Exchange, more information is coming.
"My understanding is that they're still working on the information to get to you but I can't really respond to that particular invoice," Sharfstein said. "In principle, you know it is important that things be done in accord with good accepting principles"
The apparent lack of transparency has politicians on both sides of the aisle concerned. Particularly after FOX45 showed the invoices to several legislators
State senator John Astle says too much money has been wasted already.
"This is taxpayer money that is being squandered," Astle said. "We'd like to fix it, but in the meantime, we'd like to know what happened'
As for Delegate George, it's the process that's broken, he says, not just the website.
"You look at these invoices, there are amounts, but no explanation," George said. It's a process he says needs to be fixed before more money is thrown away.