Saturday, May 26, 2018
Editorials

Make Florida's spending more accountable, efficient

It defies common sense that the nation's fourth-largest state has such a loosely structured system to evaluate and oversee almost $51 billion in contracts for goods and services. Now Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater has proposed creating a uniform set of policies to make state contracts more accountable, transparent and cost-effective. Atwater's thoughtful proposals could save Floridians billions of dollars in wasted spending. Those proposals will be heard in legislative committees today and Tuesday, and state lawmakers interested in making government more accountable and efficient should embrace them.

About 57 percent of the state budget is spent annually on vendors to provide various goods and services across Florida. But during a recent meeting with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board, Atwater said state agencies have their own unaccountable hodgepodge of rubrics in place to determine the service to be rendered, negotiate the contract, monitor the delivery of the service and pursue breaches of contracts with vendors. In a random review of 364 contracts worth more than $1 million in 2010-11, Atwater's auditors discovered 26 percent had at least one deficiency, putting some $13 billion in public money potentially at risk. Over the past year, Atwater's office has recovered almost $31 million in settlements from vendors due to faulty contracts.

There are several reasons for the glitches, including that some agency negotiators are inexperienced in dealing with complex contracts with seasoned vendors. Atwater wants lawmakers to give his office authority to evaluate and recommend changes to the state's procurement laws; train and certify program managers; clearly define performance measures expected in state contracts; and require all state agencies to perform a uniform cost and price analysis before the awarding of a contract.

Atwater also wants the reasonable authority to review and approve all state contracts over $50,000 in order to validate the scope of the work, clearly define the service being delivered and assess the performance of the contract. Currently, the chief financial officer writes the checks but has no authority over state contracts unless there is a dispute requiring the settling of a claim. It only makes sense that if the chief financial officer is expected to defend and settle contractual disputes, the office should play a more proactive role in overseeing the efficacy of a vendor contract before it is signed.

Companion bills (SB 1626 and HB 1409) sponsored by Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and Rep. Ben Albritton, R-Bartow, would give Atwater the enhanced authority he needs to bring a uniform state contract process into the modern era. This is not a power grab; state agencies still would decide which vendors they want and write the contracts. But it only makes sense that there are common practices and reviews — and that the chief financial officer has the proper tools and authority to protect the public's money.

Comments
Editorial: Welcome Bayshore changes still canít stop bad judgment

Editorial: Welcome Bayshore changes still canít stop bad judgment

Itís human nature in following any tragedy to imagine: How could this have been prevented? On that score, the city of Tampa responded appropriately to the deaths this week of a mother and her toddler whom police say were hit by a teenage driver racin...
Published: 05/25/18
Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

Editorial: Filling Rocky Point lagoon to build townhomes is an empty-headed idea

One of the worst ideas in a long time in the field of urban planning received a blessing this month when the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission approved a land-use change for a project that calls for filling three acres of water insi...
Published: 05/25/18
Editorial: Searching for the real Adam Putnam

Editorial: Searching for the real Adam Putnam

Send out an Amber Alert for Adam Putnam. The red-haired, affable fellow who has served capably as a state legislator, member of Congress and agriculture commissioner is missing. In his place is a far-right caricature who has branded himself as a prou...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: A strong economic case for restoring voting rights for felons

Editorial: A strong economic case for restoring voting rights for felons

Floridians are paying a steep price for a system that makes it as difficult as possible for people who leave prison to reintegrate into civic life. Gov. Rick Scottís clemency process isnít just archaic and cruel ó it also wastes enormous public resou...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Regardless of the reason, the cancellation of the U.S.-North Korea summit to address Pyonyangís nuclear program is hardly the worst possible outcome of this high-stakes diplomatic gamble. President Donald Trump was unprepared, North Koreaís Kim Jong ...
Published: 05/24/18
Updated: 05/25/18

NFL kneels before the altar of profits

The owners of the 32 National Football League teams sent a wrongheaded and, frankly, un-American message to their players Wednesday: Expressing your opinion during the national anthem is no longer permitted."A club will be fined by the League if its ...
Published: 05/24/18

Editorial: A positive first step in ensuring student access at USFSP

As a task force sorts out countless details involved in folding the University of South Florida St. Petersburg back into the major research university based in Tampa, ensuring access for good Pinellas students remains a concern. An enhanced cooperati...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/25/18
Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Editorial: Banks still need watching after easing Dodd-Frank rules

Legislation that waters down the 2010 Dodd-Frank law and was sent to President Donald Trump this week is a mixed bag at best. Some provisions recognize that Congress may have gone too far in some areas in the wake of the Great Recession to place new ...
Published: 05/23/18
Updated: 05/24/18
Editorial: Honoring our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day

Editorial: Honoring our fallen soldiers on Memorial Day

The rising tensions with Iran, the resurgence of violence in the Mideast and the uncertainty over a nuclear disarmament deal with North Korea combine to create an unsettling time this Memorial Day. These grave threats to peace are another reminder of...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/25/18

Another voice: The chutzpah of these men

A new phase of the #MeToo movement may be upon us. Call it the "not so fast" era: Powerful men who plotted career comebacks mere months after being taken down by accusations of sexual misconduct now face even more alarming claims.Mario Batali, the ce...
Published: 05/22/18
Updated: 05/23/18