Firm Behind Obamacare Website Also Hired to Help 'Quickly Deploy' Hurricane Sandy Relief Funds

CGI Federal was awarded $38 million by New Jersey for efficiency-minded system.

Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., speaks during a town hall meeting April 30, 2013, in Long Beach Township, N.J., where Hurricane Sandy caused heavy damage.
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CGI Federal, one of the companies behind the troubled website, also has a multimillion-dollar contract with the state of New Jersey to build and operate a Web-based computer system for the efficient disbursement of Hurricane Sandy relief funds.

The little-known system is unknown even to some members of the state department slated to use it, as New Jersey officials commemorate the one-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy sweeping ashore.

CGI won the contract to operate New Jersey's Sandy Integrated Recovery Operations and Management System five months ago. A bid solicitation released by the state Department of Community Affairs said the system would help contractors and state agencies "efficiently accomplish and fund their projects."

SIROMS was envisioned as a record-keeping tool to document the distribution of $1.8 billion in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds awarded to New Jersey by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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Bidding for the contract opened April 25 and closed on May 14. Ten days later, Canada-based CGI was awarded the job over International Technologies Inc.

"We started out with two bids, but one was thrown out," said Bill Quinn, communications director of the New Jersey Department of the Treasury. "That left the bid from CGI." The International Technologies proposal was "not responsive to the bid specifications," he said.

The estimated value of the two-year CGI contract, which expires in 2015, is more than $38 million.

"SIROMS will be a fully functional turnkey IT solution that will allow the State to quickly deploy its CDBG-DR Program to assist State residents impacted by Superstorm Sandy," the bid solicitation said. "SIROMS will collect and manage the reports and data to make payments under the program, file reports with the federal government, and provide the source data to State transparency sites and reporting dashboards."

Seventeen CDBG-DR programs were launched in the last six months, according to a Monday press release from the office of Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J.

But details about the SIROMS system appear limited even to some members of the Department of Community Affairs, the state agency that will use it to administer the federal CDBG-DR funds.

"I don't have much of anything to tell you at this point," said DCA Sandy Recovery Division spokeswoman Lisa Ryan. She was unable to say if the system is currently operational.

"I'm still trying to get information," added Ryan, who says she is abnormally busy because of the storm's anniversary.

Hurricane Sandy devastated the New Jersey coastline when it came ashore on Oct. 29, 2012. Many areas of New Jersey, including Atlantic City, a popular beach and casino vacation destination, suffered flood-related damage.

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State politicians, including Christie, frequently lament the slow pace of disbursing $50.5 billion in federal funds approved by Congress and authorized Jan. 29 by President Barack Obama. To date, New Jersey has received $5.67 billion in federal funds for recovery from the hurricane, according to the governor's office.

The state government estimates that 346,000 homes were damaged or destroyed in New Jersey by the hurricane, which also tore through New York, Connecticut and other nearby states.

Among the hourly rates CGI says it will bill taxpayers are $254.25 for a senior project director and $106.74 for a help desk manager, per a General Services Administration-approved rate schedule. Travel expenses are budgeted at a maximum of $2.7 million for the two-year project.

A statement to U.S. News from CGI suggests the SIROMS system is operational.

"What CGI [provides] is a secure, cloud-based back office system that the Department of Community Affairs uses to manage workflow approval and tracking of fund requests after the program delivery steps are completed by other state contractors and/or DCA partners," said Linda Odorisio, vice president of U.S. communications at CGI.