Asking the Right Questions

Once more, our intrepid state auditor Doug Hoffer has shone a light where some would probably prefer that he had not, exposing potentially costly mismanagement of a signature administration initiative.  

That the state has, nonetheless, come away from the table in pretty good shape is due to the watchful eye of the auditor’s team.

Seven Days is reporting that, in reviewing payments made against the contract of economist Jonathan Gruber, Governor Shumlin’s go-to guy for modelling his now abandoned Single Payor Healthcare initiative, the Auditor’s Office found some serious irregularities:

In a five-page report released Monday, Hoffer stopped short of accusing the economist, Jonathan Gruber, of fraud, citing a lack of documentation pertaining to his alleged “inconsistencies and questionable billing practices.” But the state auditor was unsparing in his criticism of the administration’s oversight of the contract, which called for an economic analysis of Shumlin’s since-abandoned single-payer health care proposal.

Coming on the heels of what many feel was a shell-game perpetrated on voters by the Governor when he chose to renounce single-payer only after gaining re-election, this latest revelation will do him no political good.

The recently appointed Secretary of Administration Justin Johnson seems to agree with the Auditor that Gruber’s billing justifications are inadequate, but stops short of accepting, on behalf of his office, blame for any error.

“The bottom line to me is did we get the work that we asked for?” Johnson said. “We did get what we were buying here.”

At the request of Sen. Joe Benning (R-Caledonia) and Rep. Oliver Olsen (I-South Londonderry), the Auditors Office undertook to examine invoicing against Mr. Gruber’s $400,000. contract in December and found significant irregularities in billing hours.

The evidence suggests that Dr. Gruber overstated the hours worked by the RA and that the Agency of Administration ignored the obvious signs that something was amiss.”

In contrast to Peter Shumlin’s political fortunes, which have headed rapidly downhill since the last election, Doug Hoffer is shaping into someone who could hold real potential for voters across the political spectrum who are longing for a return of integrity, independence and accountability to the halls of the Pavillion.

But there’s still a lot of work for him to do in the Auditor’s chair, which I remember him saying was the only one he ever wished to occupy, so let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

10 thoughts on “Asking the Right Questions

  1. You know since he was Agency of Administration Secretary at the time-wouldn’t it be interesting to hear what Jeb Spaulding has to say about this bit?

    “The evidence suggests that Dr. Gruber overstated the hours worked by the RA and that the Agency of Administration ignored the obvious signs that something was amiss.”

    Spaulding certainly has excellent timing or terrific luck to find something else to do when he did. If 80% percent of life is showing up, is the other 20% knowing when to skedaddle?

  2. wrong answer:

    “The bottom line to me is did we get the work that we asked for?” Johnson said. “We did get what we were buying here.”

    Uh, no. We did not get correct information in a timely manner. And the real question is:

    Did VT receive the value of a quality product that would be expected at this price tag that would enable VT to make correct decisions re VHC?

    Short answer: NO!

    Hence the reason for the reduction in Grubers’ expected pay.

    Now it appears he is cooking the books and manipulating the numbers so that he fraudulently receives the deduction of pay due to the degraded value of his product due to “implolitic comments”. Zheesh! Ya think??? Remarks & comments made re the gullibility of the public although true showed the entirety of what VT paid for was based upon fraud.

    His work should be sifted to ascertain what, if any, value his numbers as well as methodology used, and the exact value of the information Gruber’s machinations have thus yielded.

    That he claimed monies paid to “research associates” is fraudulent as apparently there was only one, supposedly an MIT student which is against MIT rules.

    Difficult to determine the best excepts to reference my comments so I’ll just include the links to vtdiggers’ story authored by Morgan True and his exhaustive investigation as well as document links:

    http://vtdigger.org/2015/02/23

    Docs:

    http://www.documentcloud.org/d

    Disturbing lack of oversight from the GMCB “team” – per usual:

    In a letter to Hoffer, Administration Secretary Justin Johnson says the state was satisfied with Gruber’s first two invoices precisely because Lunge and Costa had been working closely enough with the MIT economist to be certain he was performing the work he claimed he was.

    Oops! I reckon they done missed somethin’:

    Director of Health Care Reform Robin Lunge and her deputy, Michael Costa – worked closely with Gruber and his research assistant during the period the contract was in effect. Hoffer says the administration gave every indication that Gruber was putting  in the time that his invoices claimed.

    “It’s not as if this is someone who had had no contact and just popped up with an invoice for a lot of money,” Hoffer says. “(Administration officials) knew what was going on, and they knew the product that had been provided to them.”

    Hoffer says the administration by all accounts was also satisfied with the “quality and quantity” of the work.

    Nonetheless, Hoffer says the state should have held Gruber to higher invoicing standards than it did.

    And:

    In a letter to Hoffer, Administration Secretary Justin Johnson says the state was satisfied with Gruber’s first two invoices precisely because Lunge and Costa had been working closely enough with the MIT economist to be certain he was performing the work he claimed he was.

    http://digital.vpr.net/post/st

    Too little too late:

    “The state, however, is not satisfied with the last 2 invoices received [from] Dr. Gruber, which are dated December 30, 2014. … In essence, we are concerned that one invoice bills for Dr. Gruber’s time in violation of the contract amendment. Additionally, we are no longer satisfied with the level of detail provided,” wrote Robin Lunge, commissioner of Health Care Reform, who had primary oversight of Gruber’s work, in an email to Hoffer this month.

    http://vtdigger.org/2015/02/23

    Merely another one of Lunge’s CYA after-the-fact showing once again the gang is asleep at the switch and only awakens to a resounding “Heads Up” and evidence of vast shortcomings to say the least. Lunges’ protestations of criticism for the work and even continued existance of this GMCB ring hollow and do not inspire confidence in any context in those running GMCB. They are unprofessional, lacksadaisical & seem to have a laissez-faire way of conducting all affairs.

    They should be fired for monumental incompetence & failure to properly manage the affairs for which they are paid so well to do. A complete disgrace afaic.

    VT deserves better and I still believe there are those in VT who are capable and who could put this mess in apple-pie order although it would not be easy.

    Where to begin!

  3. we pretty much had all of the info & data we needed. Looks like Gruber provided the rationale for the supposed trainwreck to provide cover for Shummy’s sabotage via subterfuge. It’d be good to know the price tag for this circuitously manufactured boondoggle.

    What a tangled web … and what a crook we have for a governor. Unbelievable! and two more years. One can only look to the bright side which is that it’s not four!

  4. it is too bad that we have a governor that came so close to be booted out of his job, and learned NO LESSON from that action.  

    Almost universally identified, even by members of his own party as opportunistic or self serving or both, he and far too many of the people he surrounds himself with, instill no trust within our executive branch.  

    Is incompetence an impeachable offense?  Is embarrassment justification for filing?  

    Now we find that another aspect of the healthcare fiasco was ignored or mismanaged thanks to the great work of our state auditor.

    Lights are ON on the 5th floor, we certainly need to ask if there is anyone home.

  5. remains in the water.  CGI’s billing the state $70 million for a completely broken health exchange is fraud, pure and simple.

  6. Be curious to find out if we could have done single-payer, if Gruber’s analysis was wrong, and that we could have been doing the financing package instead of waffling around like we are now.  

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