State auditor seeks more details on Gruber's bills to state

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MONTPELIER >> State Auditor Doug Hoffer is requesting additional information from the Shumlin administration regarding Vermont's contract with economist Jonathan Gruber, Hoffer said Wednesday.

Hoffer was clear that his request does not amount to an audit, but was made in response to incomplete documentation of the work being done.

Gruber was hired in June to use his proprietary economic modeling software to measure the impacts of different financing options for the state's planned single payer health care program.

The MIT professor has come under attack for public comments belittling the voting public and transparency in the political process. Others question whether Gruber, as a health policy expert, brings an agenda to his consulting work.

Those are not factors in Hoffer's request, he said, adding that there is simply a lack of documentation in payments and invoices, which don't include information stipulated in Gruber's contract.

He's asked the administration to produce documentation on how much the state has been billed, information, including the names, of Gruber's research assistants and documentation that they are being paid at the rate stipulated in the contract.

"That's just standard procedure for monitoring any contract," Hoffer said.

None of that information is included in invoices to the state from Gruber, which bill for rounded numbers of hours in identical invoices for two separate months.

Lawrence Miller, chief of Health Care Reform - the unit with which Gruber is working - said the administration did not have additional documentation of the type Hoffer requested, but that it could obtained from Gruber should it be deemed necessary.

"Just because the invoices aren't presented that way doesn't mean we don't have the option to go deeper," he told VTDigger last week.

Miller described Gruber's research assistants as "graduate students." They are supposed to receive $100 per hour for their work, but contract payments are being made directly to Gruber at his Lexington, Massachusetts, address.

Gruber recently signed a revised contract forgoing $120,000 of his original $400,000 contract.

The graduate student research assistants will continue to be compensated under the new agreement, raising questions about how the state will ensure that money is going to them if the payments continue to go directly to Gruber.

Hoffer said he won't make any judgment about the contract's oversight until he receives the documentation he requested.


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