House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is accusing Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius of committing “criminal obstruction” of a congressional investigation by instructing contractors working on the HealthCare.gov site not to provide documents to Congress.
“The Department’s most recent effort to stonewall, however, has morphed from mere obstinacy into criminal obstruction of a congressional investigation,” Issa wrote in a letter to Sebelius dated Dec. 11.
Issa said that earlier this month, HHS instructed Creative Computing Solutions, Inc. that they were contractually prohibited from handing over any documents to a third party and that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would respond directly to Congress if they requested any information from the contractor.
“Obstructing a Congressional investigation is a crime,” Issa wrote. “The federal obstruction laws reflect the fact that Congress’ right of access to information is constitutionally based and critical to the integrity and effectiveness of our oversight and investigative activities. For that reason, it is widely understood that private citizens and companies cannot contract away their duty to comply with a congressional request for documents.”
He added that HHS’ instructions violate a federal statute that prohibits interference with an employee’s right to provide information to Congress.
“It is my expectation that you and your staff will have no further communication with the contractors in question regarding the Committee’s requests for documents and information,” Issa wrote, adding that an Oct. 30 subpoena to HHS would cover all of the information requested from contractors.