Scott remains quiet on $63 million unemployment website debacle

Filed under COMMENTARIES

ROGER CALDWELL
GUEST COLUMNIST

On October 15, 2013, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity rolled out a new unemployment website called “CONNECT” and it has been a disaster. Initially, the managers tried to tell the public that it was working okay with a few glitches, but eventually the truth came out as thousands complained about the system.

Stories started coming into the lawmakers’ offices about one failure after another.

“People can’t get their benefits. They get kicked off the system. The website freezes.

The phone-in help lines are so overloaded that people can’t even get through. Please try your call again later instructed an automated voice when I called at different time,” said Scott Maxwell, Orlando Sentinel writer.

This was in late October 2013, and it is now January 2014, and many of the problems still exist. U.S. Senator Bill Nelson has stepped up to call for an investigation, but our governor has remained silent. Scott is not the only legislator that has not exposed the problem, but state legislators are acting indifferent to this mess.

Maybe because it is the holiday, and everyone in Tallahassee is on vacation and not much work gets done during the holiday. Maybe it’s because in November 2013, Monica Russell, a DEO spokeswoman repeated that the system has not been down, but in reality it was not working. Maybe it’s because our governor is not reading the paper, and no one on his staff has told him there is a problem.

Too many tech problems
But there are thousands of Floridians who are owed checks and they have not received their money. These problems come as no surprise to the DEO, because the state department tried to fire Deloitte Consulting LLP last year. The executive steering committee knew that Deloitte was not doing the job, but they thought the old system was getting ready to collapse.

Instead of firing the company they implemented a corrective action plan, where Deloitte agreed to pay financial restitution and abide by the contractual performance conditions. Deloitte changed their project management team and added additional staff to the project site.

None of these changes worked and Deloitte is now getting fined $15,000 a day and on December 20, 2013, the state withheld a $3 million payment for 53 technical issues.

Deloitte has agreed to bring additional programmers to Florida to address technical issues and is working on a plan to solve all remaining problems.

As Deloitte attempts to fix the problems, the DEO has spent $1.1 million in overtime. DEO has also had to hire 250 extra adjudicators and 80 call center agents, which will cost $164,700, a week.

Governor Scott can remain silent and act like this is not his responsibility, but the buck stops at the top. Scott can run and hide, but the reporters will continue

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to dig for answers.

The Florida taxpayer’s taxes built this website and we have a right to know when there is a problem with our money. The taxpayers funded the system, and Governor Scott needs to be transparent and explain how the problem is being solved, and when folks who have not got their checks, will get their money.

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