- The Washington Times - Friday, March 7, 2003

The D.C. Office of Contracting and Procurement has reissued a $10 million-a-year contract to the same auditing firm to whom it erroneously awarded the contract in January.
The firm Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio and Associates is owned by an accountant with close ties to Mayor Anthony A. Williams.
The contracting agency awarded a preliminary contract to Thompson, Cobb to continue work on a federal health services project late last Friday. The contract allows "work to begin while the entire [General Services Administration] task order is reviewed by Corporation Counsel and approved by the mayor and city council," contracting officials said in an e-mail.
The Washington Times first reported last Friday that contracting officials canceled the deal on Feb. 5 because they violated their rules when they awarded it to Thompson, Cobb in January. Officials canceled the contract after The Times inquired about it and two unsuccessful bidders filed a formal appeal.
Thompson, Cobb was allowed to continue working on the contract after Feb. 5 so that the city would meet a federal deadline in April, contracting officials said.
The previous contract award violated the maximum ceiling of $999,999 a year set by the D.C. Supply Services Schedule, a list of contractors qualified to do business with the D.C. government. Contracting officials did not say how they mistakenly approved a contract more than $9 million over the established limit, according to city documents obtained by The Times.
Contracting officials said the new contract has been reissued under the federal General Services Administration Schedule, which has no ceiling.
Some D.C. Council members, who have final approval over the deal, say they have become wary of contracts worth more than $1 million.
"Work needs to be done on the way the city issues its contracts," said Council member Adrian M. Fenty, Ward 4 Democrat. "When you hear about scandal, a great percentage of it involves contracts and procurement."
The contract a one-year deal that could be extended to three years implements the city's compliance with the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which regulates access to patient information.
Jeffrey Thompson, a major contributor to Mr. Williams, is the founder and principal partner of Thompson, Cobb, Bazilio and Associates, one of the largest minority-owned accounting firms in the nation. Mr. Thompson also sits on the boards of the University of the District of Columbia and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
The full contract, which was previously awarded Jan. 7, is worth $11.5 million a year. Thompson, Cobb received a $10 million share of the contract, and Digital Safetynet, an information technology company, received a $1.5 million share for its technical support.
Two information technology companies that had bid on the contract William Adley & Co. and MVS Inc. filed formal protests with the Contract Appeals Board late last month, citing unfair contracting practices and conflicts of interest. The appeals are pending.
The companies said there is an inherent conflict of interest in Thompson, Cobb implementing HIPAA compliance for medical providers. The Thompson accounting firm would be required to assist all companies and agencies involved in the city's health care, including D.C. Chartered Healthplan Inc., a private, for-profit health maintenance organization owned by Mr. Thompson, which is part of the D.C. Healthcare Alliance.
The companies also accused procurement officials of violating their own regulations by allowing a contractor who was involved with the assessment phase of the HIPAA requirement to bid on the compliance phase of the contract. According to city documents, Thompson, Cobb received a $1.5 million work order for a "HIPAA program management office" during the assessment phase last March.
Thompson, Cobb officials said there was no problem with the contract, adding that a different contractor ABSS and Convansys did the assessment work. They said there is no conflict of interest overseeing D.C. Chartered Healthplan Inc. and its competitors because they have hired a subcontractor to do the compliance implementation.

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