If you had to choose a company to "verify taxpayer identity and to assist in ongoing identity verification and validations needs" of the Internal Revenue Service, who would you choose? Some company expert in identity verification and, of course, security? The IRS chose Equifax.
Yes, Equifax. The credit reporting firm that saw a massive data breach and the loss of personal data, including Social Security numbers, for 143 million U.S. consumers. That's half the country. The Equifax that hadn't updated server software as it knew was necessary, leaving a gap in which criminals broke in. The Equifax that had a flawed free credit protection site for those affected.
The Equifax that, as Lehman College Assistant Professor Sean Stein Smith wrote on Inc, may have made tax fraud easier for criminals because of the information release.
As Politico reported Tuesday evening, notification of the award appeared in the Federal Business Opportunities database on September 30, the last day of the government's fiscal year. The $7,251,968 award was made on September 29. That was long after the company's fiasco had come to light. Here's the justification for the award, for which Equifax apparently didn't have to compete with any other company:
A sole source order is required to cover the timeframe needed to resolve the protest on contract TIRNO-17-Z-00024. This is considered a critical service that cannot lapse.
The news comes as former Equifax CEO Richard Smith told Congress on Tuesday that an "individual" in the company's IT department was solely responsible for the screw-up that opened the doors for the cyberattack and data loss. Odd, in most companies with which I've been acquainted, checks and balances to ensure the completion of work were usually required. A department head ultimately bore the responsibility. Though not at Equifax, it seems.
Representative Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican, said, "I don't think we can pass a law that, excuse me for saying this, fixes stupid. I can't fix stupid."
No, Representative Walden, you can't. Then or now.
Walden also said, "It's like the guards at Fort Knox forgot to lock the doors and failed to notice the thieves were emptying the vaults."
And like the guards were then given a big contract to watch more vaults of gold. What a world.