State contracts need closer scrutiny

There's nothing partisan about upholding Florida's tradition of sunshine and accountability for how the state is spending billions of Floridians' hard-earned tax dollars. In fact, it is often when Florida's lawmakers come together in a bipartisan way that real reform has been accomplished when it comes to the state's contracting. That's what I found when I was Florida's chief financial officer, and why I'm pleased that CFO Jeff Atwater is continuing the good work of seeking to reform Florida's contracting process.

Specifically, I commend Florida's current chief financial officer for his recent push on contracting reform legislation that would require pre-audits of Florida's contracts, ensuring that an independent department has the ability to vet contracts before they are executed to catch poorly negotiated or badly written contracts.

As a business leader in Florida for nearly 30 years, I know that — in the business world — a company should never negotiate and sign a contract above a certain threshold without some type of financial approval or pre-audit. The business of the state deserves the same consideration, which is why I urge Florida policymakers to pass this important legislation.

As the CFO of the state, I was proud to work in a bipartisan manner with Republican Sen. J.D. Alexander to pass contracting reform legislation in 2010 that provided greater accountability and transparency in state contracting. This law included reforms such as requiring that state contracts specify clear statements of work; mandating contract managers attend accountability training; ordering an analysis to ensure no-bid contracts were reflective of fair market value; and increasing the use of electronic payments to save the state money.

At the Department of Financial Services, we took similar steps before passing this contracting reform bill, and mandated additional pre-procurement reviews for contracts of $250,000 or more.

But I also found as CFO that sometimes there were clear abuses or waste of Florida's tax dollars, and Florida's Department of Financial Services did not always have the legal authority to deny payment because the contracts were vaguely written or poorly negotiated. From this previous experience, I know a state law requiring pre-audits makes sense.

That is why I join with CFO Atwater in strongly urging policymakers in the Legislature to pass a bill that will require pre-audits of our state's contracts. I urge lawmakers in Tallahassee to champion more accountability and transparency during this session.

Alex Sink served as Florida's chief financial officer from 2007-2011. She was the Democratic nominee for governor in 2010. She wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.

State contracts need closer scrutiny 02/12/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 4:00pm]

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