ORLANDO, Fla. – The firm that originally created Florida’s unemployment website CONNECT, which has been called a “clunker” by the governor, won the state contract by default because it submitted the lowest bid, according to Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Deloitte Consulting recently obtained another state contract, causing outrage from lawmakers and Floridians who have had to interact with the unemployment system.
In a one-on-one interview with News 6 Anchor Matt Austin Friday, DeSantis said he was unaware Deloitte Consulting had submitted a bid to create a system to manage Florida’s Medicaid data for the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. Deloitte beat out four other firms for the $135 million contract.
Democratic lawmakers are calling on the AHCA to freeze the new contract. There is an ongoing inspector general investigation into the unemployment website contract process including why the contract was amended 14 times.
Deloitte won a $40 million state contract in 2011 to revamp the state’s unemployment website and processing system known as CONNECT for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The state paid Deloitte $77 million by the time the job was complete.
Under the strain from millions of Florida unemployment claims due to the coronavirus pandemic, the system failed to handle the workload and continues to be troublesome for jobless Floridians. DeSantis has described CONNECT as a “jalopy” and a “clunker.” The state has spent more than $120 million in contracts to prop up the flawed unemployment process during the pandemic.
“I had engineers tell me that they couldn’t believe that they would have paid that much money for it,” DeSantis said.
The Department of Economic Opportunity submitted a negative recommendation for Deloitte’s contract but because the firm’s bid was so low, the state legally had to accept, according to the governor.
“They dropped their bid so low in terms of money that basically, just following the law, I think that was why they were selected,” he said.
DeSantis said legally he cannot interfere in the state contract selection process.
“The governor is not allowed to mess with procurement, because, you know, if I got involved and said, ‘Don’t give it to them,’ that would be violating Florida law,” DeSantis said. “I’ve not been involved with that in any way, shape or form.”