Firm Florida is investigating receives new state contract

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida state agency announced it will award a large contract to the same company that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has repeatedly criticized for bungling the state's unemployment system.

The Agency for Health Care Administration announced Monday that Deloitte won the bid for a new system to manage Medicaid data over four other vendors. Politico reports the contract is worth $135 million.

The agency announced Deloitte was picked just hours after DeSantis told WFOR -TV in Miami the unemployment filing system designed by Deloitte appears to have deliberate roadblocks to frustrate filers.

“I think the goal was, for whoever designed it, was, ‘Let’s put as many kind of pointless roadblocks along the way, so people just say, oh, the hell with it, I’m not going to do that,’” DeSantis said in the interview taped Monday.

In May, DeSantis ordered the state inspector general to investigate the contract awarded to DeLoitte in 2011, when now Republican Sen. Rick Scott was governor. The contract was originally worth $40 million, but the cost ballooned to nearly $78 million after 14 contract amendments.

“There were a bunch of issues when this thing was launched,” DeSantis said at the time. “People want an accounting. It’s one thing to not have a good system if you go on the cheap, or whatever, but to pay that much money, and then all the problems we’ve had to deal with, is a big problem.”

Agency for Health Care Administration spokeswoman Katie Strickland said Wednesday said agency lawyers prohibit her from talking about contract awards for 72 hours after a vendor is selected. That will expire Thursday afternoon.

A spokesman for the governor didn't immediately reply to phone calls and a text message seeking comment.

But Democratic lawmakers were livid that Deloitte was picked. Sen. Lori Berman said Deloitte's unemployment system design caused “pain and grief” for Floridians who have been left without jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is shocking that the same company was even allowed to be part of the bid process. The fact that it was the winner of the bid is even more unimaginable," she said in a news release. "Since March, over three million Floridians have filed claims for unemployment and the vast majority will tell you the experience was difficult, confusing and illogical.”

A call to Deloitte's Tallahassee office went unanswered.