Viewpoint: VA's 'no bid' government contract with Cerner is an 'outrage'

When U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, MD, named Cerner the VA's next systemwide EHR in June, he awarded a contract "worth billions of dollars" without considering proposals from other health IT companies. This decision is unacceptable, David Williams, president of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance, wrote in an op-ed for The Hill.

A typical bidding process for a federal contract involves the government announcing its need for a product. In response to this request, companies submit proposals, of which the government selects the "lowest-cost, highest-quality bidder," according to Mr. Williams. The goal of this process is to ensure "full and open competition" and to reduce the risk of reckless spending or bribery.

However, Mr. Williams writes "no-bid contracts," such as the VA's decision to implement Cerner without seeking additional proposals, "have become the rule, not the exception," for many federal agencies. As an example, he notes more than half of the U.S. Department of Defense's spending in fiscal year 2016 was on noncompetitive contracts.

"Such 'no-bid' contracts are an outrage," Mr. Williams writes. "Companies seeking the government's business should compete on price and quality — just like firms that operate exclusively in the private sector. Foregoing healthy market competition and pre-selecting winners wastes money and encourages fraud and abuse."

For Mr. Williams, the decision to invoke a no-bid contract for the Cerner deal is especially upsetting, since Dr. Shulkin has admitted he does not know how much the EHR project will cost or how long it will take to implement. "When it comes to improving programs like our veterans' healthcare, we ought to know that the government awards its contracts on merit," Mr. Williams concludes.

Click here to read Mr. William's op-ed.

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