Florida senator demands answers on SunPass failures, choice of vendor

Republican Tom Lee sends letter to secretary of transportation

By Adrianna Iwasinski - Investigative Reporter

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Republican Sen. Tom Lee is demanding answers from the newly appointed Florida secretary of transportation after a presentation by the Florida Department of Transportation left him and other Senate committee members concerned about the fallout from last summer's SunPass upgrade meltdown.

[CHECK YOUR ACCOUNT: Here’s how to find out if you have been double-billed by SunPass]

The letter lays out more than a dozens questions to Secretary Kevin Thibault, addressing everything from concerns over the choice of Conduent as the state contractor for the project to questions about whether there were any other bidders that should have been considered for the contract. It also questions if any customers are still being billed for backlogged invoices and if there are any ways the agency could exit the contract and have another vendor take over the project. Click here to read the full letter. 

[READ: Senator writes letter demanding answers about SunPass failures]

On Wednesday, members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee heard a similar update on the SunPass Centralized Customer Service System by the same FDOT representative, Gerry O'Reilly.

At the start of the presentation, Vice Chair Colleen Burton, a Republican from Lakeland, spoke about the SunPass issues.

"Many of you, like me, may have been contacted by constituents concerning problems with the rollout of the new SunPass Customer Service System. Changeover to the system was scheduled to last five days in June and be relatively seamless," Burton said. "Unfortunately, a number of problems arose, resulting in months of delays and millions of unprocessed toll transactions. In August, (then) Gov. Scott announced an inspector general investigation and DOT imposed an $800,000 penalty against the vendor's $343 million contract."

O'Reilly addressed the questions and concerns brought up by committee members but could not give any definitive answers as to what could happen to the partnership between Conduent and the state.

"These have been tough months for the contractor, for the DOT and the agencies - and the customers as they've dealt with this," O'Reilly said. "We have a good plan in place. I believe we're getting close to everything being operating properly and correctly and providing customers the service they deserve."

During the Q&A session, O'Reilly was asked whether any driver's licenses have been suspended as a result of the issues.

[RELATED: Driver discovers mystery tolls on her SunPass account]

O'Reilly told House committee members he was not aware of any holds or penalties involving backlogged tolls that have resulted in any license suspensions for customers. He said they have not had any license registration holds since the new system went live. O'Reilly said officials would look at each case individually. Of course, toll users who have failed to pay or refuse to pay can still have their license suspended.

O'Reilly also addressed the recent mail-out of more than 4 million Toll-By-Plate invoices, saying those TBP customers will get at least three notices sent for any outstanding invoices before they are given an absolute due date. O'Reilly said that will allow customers to pay out their backlog over time, with payments due no sooner than March 31. 

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