Saturday, May 02, 2020

DeSantis wants probe into Scott spending on flawed unemployment website. (AP/Politico)

Anyone who ever filed for unemployment compensation in Florida, 2009-date, could have told how mucked up the computer system is, but Republicans don 't listen to unemployed workers unless there's a pandemic.  Evil Deloitte profiteered.  It should be sued under the Florida False Claims Act.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis | Getty Images
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

DeSantis wants probe into Scott spending on flawed unemployment website

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wants an investigation into the state's $78 million deeply-flawed unemployment website, a move that could direct scrutiny to fellow Republican Sen. Rick Scott, whose administration built the system seven years ago.
DeSantis, who already has said that the system was designed to fail, on Friday said it was “in tatters” and has required reengineering.
“There’s going to be a whole investigation that’s going to be need to be done about how the state of Florida could have paid $77 million for this thing,” DeSantis told reporters in Jacksonville.
As many as 1.5 million people have applied for unemployment benefits in Florida in the past six weeks as the economy sinks under the weight of the coronavirus pandemic. But hundreds of thousands more have been unable to apply for aid because the state's website, overwhelmed by the surge in traffic, has repeatedly gone offline.
The call for an investigation comes as Democrats continue to ratchet up criticism of DeSantis, a Republican, and the system's problems. 
Republican Party of Florida Chairman Joe Gruters noted the negative attention the system has been drawing on a recent campaign phone call with supporters of President Donald Trump, and suggested that Democrats were using it to undercut the governor’s overall response to the pandemic.
The state's “reemployment assistance” website — called CONNECT — came online during the Scott administration and has had problems from the start. 

When asked about DeSantis' call for an investigation, a Scott spokesperson said that the governor's chief of staff, Shane Strum, held that same role under then-Gov. Charlie Crist in 2010, when Deloitte was first selected to build the system.
“The governor should ask his chief of staff why the Crist administration picked Deloitte as the vendor. That would be a good place to start,” Scott spokesperson Chris Hartline said in an email. “Right now, every state in the country is struggling to handle the unprecedented volume of suddenly unemployed workers. The important thing is to get relief to people who need it as fast as possible. 
"Crises like this are immune to dumb political squabbles," Hartline said. "Real leaders work to solve problems and get the job done. Senator Scott is focused on solving problems to help the people of Florida during this crisis.”
DeSantis spokesperson Helen Aguirre Ferré said the final contract with Deloitte was inked after Scott took office and people need to know why the state paid so much for a “colossal failure.”
“Governor DeSantis agrees with most Floridians that an investigation is needed to determine why a $77 million dollar contract to develop an unemployment website failed so miserably,” Ferré said in an email. “The Deloitte contract to build CONNECT was signed in February of 2011 during the Scott administration for approximately $39 million and was amended fifteen times, the last signed June 6, 2014, ballooning the cost to $77 million. Those are the facts. That is a substantial amount of money for such a colossal failure.”
Auditors have repeatedly flagged problems with CONNECT, most recently in early 2019, shortly after DeSantis was sworn in as governor.
A 2015 audit found that Florida spent $77.9 million to build the program, a large amount of which went to the primary vendor, Deloitte Consulting. The system's troubles were one reason state senators in 2015 refused to confirm Scott’s pick to run the agency that manages unemployment benefits.
In the past six weeks, as claims piled up, the system routinely crashed and people spent hours trying to log on. The situation grew so dire that Florida started accepting paper applications. The DeSantis administration has signed contracts worth more than $100 million to help respond to the mounting cries of frustration from out-of-work Floridians.
One DeSantis advisor earlier this month called problems with the system a “s--- sandwich.”
The latest figures show that 1.74 million applications for jobless benefits were submitted to the state between March 15 and April 30. State officials say that number is likely to include people who have applied multiple times amid the ongoing technical failures. So far, nearly 427,000 people have been paid a total of nearly $599 million in unemployment aid.

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