One probably can understand former Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater for not putting the kibosh on that ill-fated $194 million contract with CNSI in mid-2011. Rainwater was, after all, preoccupied at the time with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s priority project, that of privatizing the Office of Group Benefits (OGB).
You may remember the controversy surrounding the OGB privatization push. First, the state brought in Goldman Sachs to help write the specifications of the request for proposals (RFP) for the privatization scheme and then (drum roll please) Goldman Sachs was the only bidder at $6 million.
After Goldman Sachs subsequently withdrew in a dispute over the issue of indemnification, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana finally got the bid but in between all that, there was that $49,999.99 contract to Chaffe and Associates for a study that failed to produce the results sought by the administration—not to mention questions about the possibility of the existence of two Chaffe reports. http://louisianavoice.com/2011/06/20/was-leaked-chaffe-report-real-or-a-doa-misdirecton-ploy/
Then there was the little matter of Rainwater’s own confirmation hearings and that of a new OGB director before the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee that almost certainly demanded much of Rainwater’s attention.
But the confirmation hearing for Bruce Greenstein as Secretary of Health and Hospitals by the same committee a week later should have served as a red flag and should have set off all sorts of alarms within the Jindal administration—beginning with Rainwater.
The warnings were clear and the track record of CNSI was readily available. Apparently no one in this administration ever heard of vetting a company before awarding it the largest single contract in the state’s history.
That, it turned out, was a mistake of monumental proportions.
The details of the awarding of the contract to Greenstein’s former employer now reads like some kind of Tom Clancy espionage novel—complete with secret communications, bid-rigging, lavish entertainment of state officials, death threats, creative accounting principles, money laundering, ghost employees, payments of non-existent loans, posh homes of questionable ownership, possible tax evasion, and claims of an ancestral link between Gov. Jindal’s Indian heritage and CNSI’s Indian ownership. dt.common.streams.StreamServer
Throw in the fact that CNSI is one of the subcontractors working on the Obamacare website, and you’ve got all the makings of a real suspense story.
To say the CNSI story is complex would be to belabor the obvious which is all the more reason that Jindal and Rainwater should have taken a closer look at the qualifications of CNSI before committing to such a contract.
It turns out that every state might want to take a long, hard look at CNSI’s credentials now that the company is in position to bid on billions in new contracts with individual states that, in order to receive new grants for expanded Medicaid rolls, will be required to update outdated IT systems in order to more readily share data. Michael Volpe recently had a story that dealt with that very issue in Frontpage Mag. http://www.frontpagemag.com/2013/volpe/billionaire-swindlers-line-up-for-obamacare/
In examining CNSI, these states might wish to begin with Maryland where CNSI’s problems began as far back as 2001. In was that year that Maryland hired CNSI to develop its new web-based Main Medicaid Claims System for the processing of $1.5 billion per year in Medicaid Claims. CNSI has submitted the lower of two bids for the project. The company’s $15 million bid was exactly half the $30 million bid by the other company. Experts say the state should have known right then that the low number of bidders and the disparity between bids were red flags.
CNSI, it turned out, had zero experience in developing Medicaid claims systems. It was given 12 months to develop the system, which was finally put online in January of 2005, three years late.
Problems occurred almost immediately. The company’s costs quickly grew to $25 million but even worse for the state, there were an unusually high number of rejected claims from the outset and the number of suspended claims quickly reached 300,000—a rejection rate of about 50 percent—and by June the number had grown to 647,000, representing about $310 million in back payments to medical providers. Some facilities had to close their doors because of non-payments while others had to take out loans to keep their doors open and others simply stopped seeing Medicaid patients altogether.
In 2008, South Dakota awarded CNSI a $62.7 million contract for a new Medicaid processing system. By 2010—nearly a year before Louisiana hired CNSI—work was halted on the project after costs had grown to $80 million and the system was still two to three years from completion.
A year ago, the Southeast Michigan Health Information Exchange (SEMHIE) filed suit against CNSI over a $1.8 million contract to develop a Social Security e-Disability project for SEMHIE. One of the stipulations of that contract was that any software developed for the project would become the property of SEMHIE. The lawsuit says that SEMHIE “repeatedly, both orally and in writing,” demanded delivery of the software but that CNSI has refused to turn over the software or even to communicate with SEMHIE.
SEMHIE says it had been negotiating to provide the Michigan Health Information Network (MHIN) with the software but that CNSI’s refusal to turn it over resulted in MHIN’s termination of the agreement, thereby costing SEMHIE “substantial” revenue.
The latest twist in the CNSI saga is that the State of Arkansas has, on the basis of the FBI investigation of CNSI’s contract with Louisiana, disqualified CNSI from doing business with that state.
But the really interesting details of the CNSI contract and the company’s links to former employee Greenstein, who was DHH Secretary at the time the contract was awarded, can be found in a series of interviews conducted by the FBI in Maryland FBIReportsCNSI in which two former employees, Vice President and Corporate Counsel Matthew Hoffman and Vice President of Accounting and Finance Jeffrey Weisenborne, reported bookkeeping irregularities, falsification of asset statements to bankers, the purchase of secret homes in Maine, Michigan and Washington State which were not carried on the CNSI books, non-existent loans for which the four CNSI partners received monthly payments, the hiring of CNSI partners’ family members who did no work, bid-rigging, and threats to Hoffman that he would be killed if he disclosed company misconduct. dt.common.streams.StreamServer
The Louisiana Attorney General’s office also conducted an interview with a CNSI employ who originally was a contract employee but who was subsequently hired full time by the company. The employee, identified only as Kunego, which was said to be a pseudonym, was conducted on May 10—11, 2012.
He testified that CNSI’s bid was structured so that it could “shave off” about $40 million from its bid, thus allowing the company to win the contract after which it could get the terms of the contract changed. “In many states this alone would lead to disqualification of the CNSI proposal,” he said. Additionally, he said DHH “front-loaded” the contract, meaning CNSI got money up front because “CNSI was close to being insolvent and needed this change to keep them afloat.”
Kunego said in January of 2011 he and CNSI officials were in North Dakota to prepare their pricing for the Louisiana proposal when they were told by CNSI cofounder and CEO Bishwajeet Chatterjee that the number they had to beat was under $199 million. “This indicated that CNSI officers knew ahead of time the dollar amount that they had to propose to win the contract,” he said.
“After the contract was awarded and during the protest period, Greenstein went to DC (Washington) and was picked up by CNSI officers and entertained to dinner,” the witness said.
He said that during the Greenstein confirmation hearings, CNSI Vice President of Government Affairs Creighton Carroll “was very concerned that the Senate committee would subpoena their phone records.” Carroll told Kunego that they deleted many text messages between CNSI officers and Greenstein “to avoid them being subpoenaed.” Moreover, he said Carroll used his wife’s cell phone for most of the “off channel communications” with Greenstein.
Also during the Greenstein confirmation hearings, CNSI’s lobbyist Alton Ashy was texting Greenstein in an effort to help him with his answers to questions being asked by committee members.
Kunego said that when Greenstein worked for CNSI he lived in a CNSI-owned townhome and that he “got the impression from Chatterjee that Greenstein had ownership in CNSI.” He said 80 percent of CNSI is owned by the four founders—Chatterjee, Chief Strategic Officer Adnan Ahmed, Chief Financial Officer Jaytee Kanwal, and Chief Administrative Officer Reet Singh—while the remaining 20 percent is owned by 23 different people.
The Attorney General report quoted Kunego as saying Jindal has “an India to India ancestor-driven background and network of connectors that brought CNSI and Jindal together” (a characterization the governor’s office labeled as “insulting”) and that “Jindal’s public persona does not jive (sic) with what is going on at DHH.” LDOJ Interview Report on CNSI from 051412
Finally, we have to raise a couple of other questions here about the sequence of events that don’t exactly shine the best light on the Jindal administration.
Was the timing of the personnel change in the Division of Administration (DOA) coincidental or was it somehow tied to the pending investigation?
Rainwater was brought over to the governor’s office on Oct. 15, 2012, to serve as Jindal’s Chief of Staff and has not been heard from since while Deputy Chief of Staff Kristy Nichols left the governor’s office to move across the street to the Claiborne Building to take over Rainwater’s former duties.
In January, the FBI served a subpoena on DOA for all records pertaining to the CNSI bid and contract, including the RFP. And while Jindal certainly knew of the subpoena (and if he did not know, Nichols should be run off by a mean, biting dog for not informing her boss), the subpoena did not become public knowledge until early March. Once the news broke, Jindal acted with all deliberate speed (and yes, that’s sarcasm) to announce the termination of the contract, saying his administration would “not tolerate corruption.”
A week after that, Greenstein announced his resignation, but incredibly, was allowed to remain on the job for another month.
So, did the administration initiate the personnel change at DOA in October in anticipation of the FBI and Attorney General investigations and the subpoena that would come down in three months?
Why did the administration try to keep a lid on the news of the subpoena for some two months and cancel the CNSI contract only when the subpoena’s existence became public knowledge?
And most important: why was Greenstein allowed to remain on the job for a full month after news of the subpoena and the cancellation of the CNSI contract?
Something here just doesn’t pass the smell test.