What does a smiling unicorn wearing a heart pendant and rearing in front of a rainbow have to do with federal IT contests?
Nothing, except it's the image that appears with the message “Sorry! You don't have access to this page” on an official government website. The URL—vascheduling.challenge.gov
—was confirmed as accurate by a Veterans Affairs Department spokesman, and was published Oct. 16 in the Federal Register as the location for details on creation of a VA healthcare appointment scheduling app. The spokesman guessed that the unicorn was a standard dead link page and said in an Oct. 19 interview that officials were expected to activate it with contest details. But as of Nov. 1, the unicorn and rainbow—and not details of the $3 million contest—were featured on the website.
The Obama White House and the General Services Administration launched Challenge.gov in September 2010 as a way for all federal agencies to elicit the public's help in addressing their particular goals.
A GSA spokesman said the unicorn was likely a dead link page used by ChallengePost, the private “partner” that operates the site for the GSA. He referred questions about the fate of the contest page back to the VA, which had previously deferred to the GSA.
The GSA-operated site featured four veterans-related contests on Halloween but none specifically related to healthcare appointment scheduling—or unicorns.