Concerns raised over Florida's contracts with Deloitte Consulting

State is paying company behind troubled unemployment website for another project

CREATED Feb. 24, 2014

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FLORIDA-- Fox 4 is learning the company under intense scrutiny for problems with Florida's new unemployment website, CONNECT, was also hired for another state project, even though another company offered to do the project for cheaper. 

Officials with Florida Department of Economic Opportunity have blamed problems with the $63 million unemployment site on Deloitte Consulting, the company that built it.

CONNECT has delayed payments to thousands of Floridians, including Cape Coral resident Scott Kleveno, who is waiting on more than $2,000 in unemployment benefits. 

"Obviously this website still has problems, it's not fixed... they need to get away from this company," Kleveno said. 

As a penalty for the problems with the site, the state has been collecting $15,000 from Deloitte Consulting per business day since December.  

A previous Fox 4 report revealed, DEO officials knew about problems with the website months before it launched in October 2013.  

In June 2012, DEO threatened to fire Deloitte for delays and issue with the project. 

Despite past problems with the company, Florida's Department of Children and Families hired Deloitte in March 2013 for a $36 million project to update the state's Medicaid eligibility system.  

One of Deloitte's competitors, Accenture, offered to do the project for $6 million less.  

A DCF team in charge of negotiating the bid voted initially 6 to 1 to give the bid to Accenture.  

That vote later changed to 4 to 3.  

DCF Deputy Secretary Suzanne Vitale, awarded the contract to Deloitte. 

In a memo obtained by Fox 4, Vitale wrote that she decided to give the project to Deloitte because it had "in-depth knowledge" of the existing system, and offered three times the staff that Accenture did. 

Vitale said she was advised by her General Counsel that her decision was "sound and just."

Alexis Lamber, DCF Communications Director, said the Medicaid expansion project, which launched in December 2013, was within budget and on time.   

The relationship between Deloitte Consulting and Florida officials is raising some concerns from US Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) who is asking the US Department of Labor to investigate potential fraud, abuse or waste with the CONNECT system. 

When asked what Nelson thought about the state's history with Deloitte, he sent the following statement: 

"Its obvious some of the procurement practices in Florida are inadequate and need a major overhaul that would provide for better oversight and transparency."

"The recent reports of wasteful spending and poor program results should outrage taxpayers and embarrass this administration," the senator's statement continued.

Nelson said he is meeting next week with Thomas Perez, US Secretary of Labor, to discuss his requests for more oversight with CONNECT.

Fox 4 reached out to the office of Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) to find out what - if anything - he's doing to make sure taxpayers' dollars are used responsibly.

His press secretary, John Tupps, responded with the following statement: 

"Governor Scott remains committed to protecting taxpayer dollars."

Fox 4 also received the following statement from State Senator Lizbeth Benacquisto (R-Fort Myers) regarding the unemployment website: 

"People from Southwest Florida and around the state are rightfully upset with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for the problems with the CONNECT system."

"Taxpayers paid for this new system, so I will accept nothing less than a full accounting of what has gone wrong and a decisive plan to fix these problems," Benacquisto's statement continued.

Fox 4 will continue to follow this story until our viewers get the money and answers they've been waiting on.