VA nixes controversial supply-chain contract with Shipcom
A controversial multimillion-dollar U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs supply-chain contract that first came under scrutiny in Pittsburgh because of widespread employee complaints has been abruptly canceled.
The contract with Houston-based Shipcom Wireless was terminated Aug. 9, according to a letter from Nancy L. Bailey, a contracting officer for the federal agency.
In a letter to Shipcom President Abeezar Tyebji, Bailey wrote that “it is necessary for Shipcom to begin disengagement and demobilization of the contract.”
Shipcom did not respond to emails and phone messages from the Tribune-Review.
Bailey ordered Shipcom to “cease all work, make no further shipments and place no further orders.”
Attempts to reach Shipcom for comment were not successful.
In an internal memo to its employees, the VA said: “We are unable to discuss the terms or reasons for the termination at this time,” adding that the matter was undergoing legal review.
Shipcom’s Catamaran system, according to the memo, has been deployed at 22 VA health facilities, including Pittsburgh. The contract, with renewals, had a potential $275 million value.
Major problems with Catamaran first were reported in Pittsburgh in September 2015, with VA staffers forced to borrow medical supplies from other health facilities. VA employee union leaders, including Kathi Dahl, president of Local 2028 of the American Federation of Government Employees in Pittsburgh, joined in warning that health care could be jeopardized.
Top VA officials, including Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson, stood by the contract and quickly reversed a decision to return to the old supply system in Pittsburgh.
The contract drew widespread local attention when former VA regional director Michael Moreland appeared as a consultant to Shipcom. After protests from local employees, the VA barred Moreland from further participation.
In the memo to employees, VA Logistics Operations Manager Elena Jenkins labeled the information in the Catamaran system as “bad, inconsistent or incomplete.”
Pittsburgh VA employees have said the Catamaran system crashed constantly, making it impossible to order needed supplies.
Walter F. Roche Jr. is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at [email protected].