Drastic call for full audit of Cover Oregon edited out of 'missing' Maximus report

Drastic call for full audit of Cover Oregon edited out of 'missing' Maximus report »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. - Newly unearthed emails shed light on the fight to reveal information about the management of Cover Oregon's failed website during the last months of 2013.

This comes as Oregon's Committee on Legislative Audits, Information Management and Technology prepares to meet Thursday to review the state's major information technology projects.

Oregon Health Authority managers edited the quality-assurance contractor's report to massage information about a controversial set of expenditures totaling $119 million; they claimed to have forgotten about what they themselves described as a "heavily disputed" report when the media requested a copy. And they edited out a finding that there was no way to "conclude that the current governance structure is adequate or effective."

The On Your Side Investigators found the new information in a batch of emails from late last year sent to and from former OHA CIO Carolyn Lawson, the woman who was originally responsible for building the since-scrapped website.

The emails included a working copy of the report submitted by quality-assurance contractor Maximus, with OHA's edits tracked.

Near the top of the August-November 2012 report, a section was edited out criticizing project management.

The removed section read: "Although we are aware of strong executive interest and varying degrees of involvement of the senior executives, we cannot conclude that the current governance structure is adequate or effective."

Managers also reworked a section of the report discussing roughly $119 million in controversial purchase orders with software vendor Oracle.

Maximus was critical of the purchase orders, which – thanks to the state's unusual contract with Oracle that had been designed to maximize efficient transactions on the DHS modernization project – didn't require statements of work detailing what the money was being spent on.

Management edited out one sentence implying the scope of the problematic purchase orders could be even larger than it had found.

The following sentence was removed entirely: "Please note that this was neither an exhaustive audit nor detailed legal review."

A year later, when the media began asking for copies of the Maximus reports, OHA management claimed at first it wasn't aware that same controversial November edition existed before it eventually turned it over, after repeated prodding from spokesperson Patty Wentz.

Lawson's chief deputy – a man named Steve Powell, who had previously been her supervisor at a job in California – didn't include the November report with a batch he sent in response to a media request Wentz facilitated.

Wentz apologized for asking yet again about the November report.

"From what I understand, Maximus was contracted to provide 4 quarterly update reports," Powell wrote in response. "These are the only ones I'm aware of and I've double checked the site. ...

"... This was before my direct involvement with Maximus, so I'm speculating."

From the initial risk assessment onward, OHA was allowed to review and rebut Maximus' reports before they were published.

Four days later, Powell sent Wentz the report, adding that it had been the subject of much debate at OHA when it was originally released.

"I found it!!!" he wrote. "This report was heavily disputed by the state and took a while to resolve. I did not have copies of this report, but we were able to find it in Carolyn's archives."

The November 2012 report was also the first time Maximus attached an in-depth addendum deeply critical of OHA's decision to develop a "no wrong door" policy designed to integrate many state entitlement programs in one.

The ambitious plan was a big part of the reason the federal government gave the state hundreds of millions of dollars in "early innovator" grant money, and has been given a large share of the blame for the website's failure to come together.


Full coverage of the troubled Cover Oregon website: