TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The company that could be to blame for Florida’s botched unemployment system is now in line to receive another major state contract.
Deloitte Consulting raised more than a few eyebrows earlier this week when it beat out four other companies for a $110 million deal to update the state’s Medicaid program by developing a central data repository.
Deloitte is currently under investigation by Florida’s chief inspector general to determine if its role in developing the Department of Economic Opportunity’s CONNECT website contributed to the massive system failure Gov. Ron DeSantis coined a “jalopy” earlier this year.
Florida paid the global consulting giant $78 million for that project.
State Democrats are now calling on the Agency for Health Care Administration, or AHCA, to freeze negotiations with Deloitte until the findings of the CONNECT investigation are released.
“People are mad and rightfully so,” State Representative Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando) said. “There’s a reason why the public continues to not trust the government, I think this is one example of it.”
Eskamani and her staff have spent the last five months grappling with the fallout from CONNECT’s failures, fighting for benefits for constituents and non-constituents alike. 8 On Your Side also continues to receive frequent complaints regarding unemployment problems and system errors.
Deloitte is also the subject of a pending class-action lawsuit from laid-off workers who claim the faulty unemployment system wrongfully delayed or denied them benefits.
Earlier this year, at least three other states with Deloitte-built unemployment systems suffered data breaches that compromised personal information.
When asked if Deloitte’s powerful lobby in Tallahassee could explain winning the contract despite the questionable track record, Eskamani did not want to speculate but said she wouldn’t be surprised.
“No doubt in my mind that politics does play a role in these things, which is unfortunate,” she said.
The governor’s office adamantly denies any politics or impropriety in the procurement, giving 8 On Your Side the following statement:
“Procurement is, and should be, free from political influence and even a hint of impropriety. Unfortunately, with the ethical distance we must maintain from these contracting decisions, when a decision is made that implicates past performance issues or an ongoing, yet unfinished investigation, people naturally demand action. The Governor understands and appreciates those feelings – and he shares them. While we can’t undo the non-partisan, and apolitical manner in which the contract was awarded, Governor DeSantis will hold the contracting party accountable for every obligation and benchmark under the contract.”
Florida procurement law states agencies must identify and select bids with the “lowest responsible offer,” meaning price is largely the criteria. However, to determine whether the bid is responsible, agencies are to investigate whether the company has a history of failing to timely and satisfactorily perform prior contracts
The governor’s office could not comment on the progression of the inspector general investigation because it is still active.
AHCA declined to comment citing a 72-hour “blackout period” following the announcement of a winning bid.
Deloitte did not return requests for comment.
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