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Florida agencies spend millions on cell phones, BlackBerrys, report says

TALLAHASSEE — Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush loved his BlackBerry so much that he had it painted into his official state portrait, but a new report shows that the state's love affair with wireless devices may have gotten out of hand.

The report released Tuesday shows that state agencies have spent at least $17 million annually on more than 41,000 cell phones, air cards and personal digital assistants, including BlackBerrys. But the report may capture only a fraction of the devices used by state employees because Florida doesn't have a way to track all of the devices and their costs.

State agencies frequently purchase cell phones independently and report costs inconsistently, possibly lumping the cost for cell phones and PDAs into the cost of total telephone expenses. That's according to the report from the Florida Legislature's watchdog agency, the Office of Program Policy and Analysis and Government Accountability. By purchasing cell phones independently, agencies aren't helping the state negotiate a better group rate.

The report recommends that the state establish consistent policies on wireless devices, laying out who should have them. At least 10 states already have such policies. Currently, individual agencies establish policies governing the devices, but those vary widely.

The report also recommends that agencies report yearly how many and what types of wireless devices they have and how much they spend on them.

The data the agency compiled shows that of 33 state agencies, the three biggest BlackBerry users — with more than 1,000 PDAs each — were the departments of Health, Transportation, and Children and Families. The Corrections Department reported having 7,000 cell phones, twice the number of the next biggest user, the Health Department.

Florida agencies spend millions on cell phones, BlackBerrys, report says 03/04/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 4, 2009 11:04pm]
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