Tuesday, April 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Sharper eye needed on state contracts

It is a common refrain among conservative politicians that government should be managed like a business. But sensible efforts by Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater to introduce greater accountability into the way the state negotiates more than $50 billion in private sector contracts and grants has run into difficulty with Gov. Rick Scott and business lobbyists. Atwater wants the Legislature to allow his office to require pre-audits of government contracts to ensure they are properly negotiated and written to protect taxpayer dollars. It is a reasonable approach, and the governor ought not be so protective of his turf.

In a recent meeting with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, Atwater noted that most of the state's $70.2 billion budget is tied up in $10 billion on contracts and $40 billion in dedicated spending grants to vendors for specified services. But the state negotiates these deals through a hodge-podge of 3,200 contract and grant managers spread over 33 agencies. And those managers have different levels of experience, use different standards and could use an independent set of eyes reviewing their work before any deals are signed. Last year, Atwater's office reviewed a sample of 600 contracts awarded across state government and found glaring problems with 46 percent of the agreements, putting at least $23 billion at risk. His office also discovered contracts, some into seven figures, that were so vaguely worded it was difficult to determine what service was supposed to be delivered.

Atwater is not seeking to approve contracts awarded by agencies that report to the governor, which would be an intrusion. His thoughtful reforms would create a uniform standard of protocols for all state contracts and permit his office to pre-audit contracts to ensure they are properly negotiated and structured. Is that too much to ask?

Yet the CFO's rational reforms, which were embraced by Atwater's predecessor, Alex Sink, have been met with resistance by business interests who prefer the status quo. The governor's concerns also are unwarranted. Bringing some coherence, accountability and credibility to the way the state does business hardly qualifies as a crass political power grab.

Atwater is once again attempting to win legislative approval for his contract pre-audit proposal, which could save the state billions of dollars. He may not win over the Capitol's lobbyist influence-peddlers, but a Republican-controlled Legislature and governor's office so committed to running government like a business should want the chief financial officer of the nation's fourth-largest state to have the tools to perform his job and protect taxpayer money.

Comments

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18