Thursday, September 20, 2018
Opinion

Taxpayers deserve the best deals

Floridians send their dollars to Tallahassee with the expectation that we, the men and women they elected to serve them, deploy those dollars with the utmost care and concern. This is money that could have gone to put more food on a family's table or buy a child a new pair of shoes.

As chief financial officer, I have the honor, privilege and responsibility of overseeing the state's finances and keeping a watchful eye on how the dollars you send to state government are being spent.

That is why I am advocating this legislative session for reforms that safeguard taxpayer dollars and increase the value, integrity and accountability in the state's contracting policies. These reforms will be aimed at protecting the more than $50 billion, or approximately 72 percent of the state budget, that is spent annually on contracts and agreements for goods and services.

To get a handle on what is at stake, last fiscal year, my office conducted 600 audits of contracts and agreements and found that 276, or 46 percent, did not contain common-sense contracting standards. Considering this sampling, we are faced with the potential that nearly $23 billion could be at risk because of poorly written or badly managed contracts.

I am calling for the Legislature to require a pre-audit of high-value contracts to ensure that they contain elements that protect taxpayer dollars. This could include precise scope of work, clearly defined deliverables, minimum performance standards, and financial consequences for failure to deliver goods and services.

I am advocating for consistent elements in all agreements and across-the-board standards for training those who execute agreements on the state's behalf. If we can correct these errors on the front end, we can ensure that the promised goods and services are delivered at the best price for Florida taxpayers.

The goal of these reforms is to promote value, integrity, transparency, accountability and public confidence in the state's contracting processes, which are lacking in the current system. Last year my office launched a Web-based transparency tool called the Florida Accountability Contract Tracking System — or FACTS — to allow citizens to search and review state contracts online. We can continue to improve transparency and accountability by implementing these common-sense reforms to our state contracting processes.

Just as families in Florida are mindful of the money they spend, your government has an obligation to do the same. Wasted dollars will not be tolerated; all state contracts should reflect the highest ethical and fiscal standards — clear, consistent and measurable.

Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a statewide elected official and officer of the Florida Cabinet, oversees the Department of Financial Services. His priorities include fighting financial fraud, abuse and waste in government; reducing government spending and regulatory burdens that chase away businesses; and providing transparency and accountability in spending. He wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.

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