Monday, June 18, 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: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

Editorial: Educate voters on Amendment 4 and restoring felons’ rights

This fall voters will have 13 constitutional amendments to wade through on the ballot, but Amendment 4 should get special focus. It represents a rare opportunity to rectify a grievous provision in the Florida Constitution, which permanently revokes t...
Published: 06/13/18
Updated: 06/14/18
Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

Editorial: How Florida and the Trump administration are tampering with your health care

The Trump administration just can’t stop sabotaging Americans’ access to health care. Instead of giving up after it failed to persuade Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, it continues to quietly undermine the law in ways that would reduce acc...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/15/18