Thursday, April 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Bad business in Tallahassee

The disastrous launch of the state unemployment website is not the only example of Gov. Rick Scott's administration mishandling lucrative public business. As the Tampa Bay Times recently reported, the same vendor the state blamed for blocking thousands of Floridians from their jobless benefits with a botched website was also awarded another contract by the state despite being significantly underbid. At best, the two cases show a troubling pattern of poor oversight and opaque decisionmaking by an administration that preaches accountability.

The Florida Department of Children and Families awarded Deloitte Consulting a contract worth $31.6 million last March to modernize the state's system for tracking Medicaid eligibility. As the Times' Michael Van Sickler reported last week, the bid was about $6 million higher than that from a rival firm, Accenture. And the award came after the agency's then-deputy secretary, Suzanne Vitale, intervened by overruling two separate recommendations by a team of staffers with computer and software expertise.

Deloitte is one of the world's largest government contracting firms. Since 2007, it has secured $283 million in state contracts and wields one of the state's most powerful lobbying corps. Vitale, though, who left the government in January, said politics did not factor into her decision. She said Deloitte had already worked with DCF and was familiar with the agency's computer system. She also said Deloitte brought an established record and more staff resources to the job.

Vitale's concerns, though, should have been addressed by the internal review team. That's the purpose of a competitive bid process and the point of having specialists methodically vet details. The review team initially voted 7-0 to award the contract to Accenture; after negotiations stalled, the panel voted again months later and still chose to stick with the company. Vitale downplayed the reversal, citing her authority to overrule the staff recommendation and a split vote the second time around. If the screening process is flawed, fix it. If it's a formality left to the boss, why bother at all?

Vitale intervened to Deloitte's benefit more than a year after the state Department of Economic Opportunity began warning that Deloitte's CONNECT website for jobless benefits was shoddy and behind schedule. In 2012, DEO threatened to fire Deloitte; it eventually started fining the company, totaling $570,000 through last week. But Vitale said she was unaware of those problems. That shows a terrible communications gap between these government agencies. The state lost an early chance to get Deloitte's attention. And it sent a message to vendors that the bids were controlled from the top. That was the wrong way to bring in a contractor that the state has already had a hard time managing. And it's no way to conduct business or government.

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Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

Editorial: Improving foster care in Hillsborough

A new foster care provider in Hillsborough County is poised to take over operations in May, only months after its predecessor was fired for what was alleged to be a pattern of failing to supervise at-risk children in its care. Many of the case manage...
Published: 04/18/18

Another voice: Back to postal reform

President Donald Trump is angry at Amazon for, in his tweeted words, "costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy." Yet in more recent days, Trump has at least channeled his feelings in what could prove...
Published: 04/17/18
Updated: 04/18/18
Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

Editorial: Congress should protect independence of special counsel

A bipartisan Senate bill clarifying that only the attorney general or a high-ranking designee could remove a special prosecutor would send an important message amid President Donald Trump’s attacks on the investigation into Russia’s inter...
Published: 04/16/18
Updated: 04/17/18
Editorial: Donít fall for Constitution Revision Commissionís tricks

Editorial: Donít fall for Constitution Revision Commissionís tricks

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has wasted months as a politically motivated scam masquerading as a high-minded effort to ask voters to improve the stateís fundamental document. The commission on Monday added amendments to the November b...
Published: 04/16/18
Editorial: Rednerís court win on medical marijuana sends message

Editorial: Rednerís court win on medical marijuana sends message

Florida regulators have done far too little to make voter-approved medical marijuana widely available for patients suffering from chronic illnesses. A circuit court judge in Tallahassee ruled last week there is a price for that obstruction, finding t...
Published: 04/15/18
Updated: 04/16/18
Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Editorial: Hillsborough commission should quit expanding urban area

Any movement on modernizing local transportation is welcome, even small steps like the million dollars the state recently approved to design a Tampa Bay regional transit plan.But the region wonít make any progress on transportation, its single most p...
Published: 04/13/18
Updated: 04/18/18

Editorial: Fight harder on citrus greening

A new report by scientists advising the federal government finds no breakthrough discovery for managing citrus greening, a chronic disease killing Floridaís citrus industry. This should be a wake-up call to bring greater resources to the fight.The re...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18

Editorial: Floridians should focus more on health

A new snapshot of the nationís health shows a mixed picture for Florida and the challenges that residents and the health care community face in improving the quality of life.Americans are living longer, exercising more and doing better at managing th...
Published: 04/11/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Editorial: 5 key issues where Scott, Nelson differ in Senate race

Gov. Rick Scott kicked off his U.S. Senate campaign last week by reciting tired lines about career politicians and mischaracterizing himself as an outsider. That pitch may have worked during the tea party wave eight years ago, but now the Republican ...
Published: 04/10/18
Updated: 04/13/18
Editorial: St. Petersburg should move carefully on banning straws

Editorial: St. Petersburg should move carefully on banning straws

St. Petersburg city officials are exploring how to cut down on single-use plastic straws, a commendable effort to make the city even more environmentally minded. But to succeed, City Council members should craft a modest, reasonable restriction that ...
Published: 04/10/18