TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Some Florida lawmakers are worried a multi-million dollar state contract, awarded to the company behind Florida's infamous unemployment system, was politically motivated.
With last week's award, Deloitte Consulting — the same firm that created Florida's CONNECT portal— is set to make a significant upgrade to the Agency for Health Care Administration's Medicaid data. The deal is valued at $135 million.
Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, is urging officials to hold off.
"Why in the world would we turn around and give business to the same company that essentially fleeced the taxpayers?" she said.
Cruz doesn't like the deal to begin with, given Deloitte's history with Florida. She's also concerned about the company's lobbyist Jenn Ungru, who served as chief of staff for AHCA until 2015 before moving to the private sector.
While it's common for lobbyists to have previously served in a government role, Cruz worries the connection may have inappropriately influenced the award and given Deloitte an edge over four other bidders.
"I'm not convinced in the least that this has been a fully transparent process," she said. "I've said it before -- I'll say it again. This is the absolute fleecing of Floridians."
Gov. Ron DeSantis has weighed in on the issue. During a news conference, Tuesday, he said he's opposed to the Deloitte pick but didn't feel the state acted inappropriately in its decision.
DeSantis said Deloitte likely won the bid because it made the lowest offer.
"They dropped their price so dramatically that it's not clear to me that at that point they could have been denied it on neutral grounds," said DeSantis. "Maybe if you inject this issue into it, but I'm just not sure they're allowed to do it based on the law."
DeSantis said state code forbade him from stepping in to freeze the contract. He did say he would support whatever could be done legally to put the deal on hold.
However, other efforts to stop the deal are already underway. According to AHCA, Accenture and IBM both filed notices of intent to protest the award. State officials said they could not comment further.
We reached out to Deloitte and its lobbyist for comment on this story. Neither gave a response.
Deloitte has stood by its past work for the state. Company officials said previously in a statement its CONNECT system had "vastly outperformed" the program it replaced.