With Florida being an $80 billion enterprise and the third-largest state in the nation, it is alarming that its procurement statutes, rules and policy have not been significantly changed in decades, contributing to our state lagging behind most states in the effective use of technology to make our state a better place to live and work.
The Associated Industries of Florida (AIF) and its Information Technology (IT) Council commends the Florida Legislature for creating the Agency for State Technology (AST) in 2014, which has resulted in improvements in policy and project oversight of existing large and complex state projects. Under the leadership of Jason Allison and Chad Poppell, both the AST and Department of Management Services have worked diligently to make improvements in procurement, most notably with state term contracts. However, these agencies must still work within the confines of outdated statutes.
Because the current processes have not kept up with the ever-changing technology, it is often difficult for businesses and citizens to interact with our state because of cumbersome and obsolete internal processes. Therefore, it is crucial for our government to adapt and become more efficient, particularly when it comes to large, complex procurements involving business processes and IT. AIF fully supports the need for a complete overhaul of Florida’s procurement statutes, especially as it relates to state projects with IT underpinnings. We applaud Representative Ben Albritton for his leadership and vision on this critical issue.
We believe that this reform should be founded on a renewed commitment to transparency, open competition and a commitment to always focus on the best outcomes for our citizens. These principles will also encourage industries to compete in our state. Further, industries that can fairly compete here are more likely to expand in Florida and bring new high-tech jobs to our state. Additionally, AIF believes that the invitation to negotiate (ITN) process, which is used for Florida’s largest projects, should be revamped top to bottom. The ITN process should be redesigned to ensure that contracts are awarded on a transparent, measurable and quantitative basis – instead of the loosely defined “best value” concept that exists today.
Procurement reform should include changes to the legislative and budgetary process. Our current process takes years to approve feasibility studies and to fund projects before a procurement can even begin. This unwieldy bureaucratic process can render projects obsolete before they even begin. As such, AIF encourages the Legislature to implement new committee structures that can focus on government process efficiency and effective procurement policy. We believe that governmental efficiency and IT policy should not be the responsibility of budget committees.
All in all, as technology continues to evolve, it is imperative that we as a state be a step ahead of its progression by investing in better, safer and more efficient business processes and recognizing that most of these factors are dependent on IT. We must have a procurement and contracting system in place that is more effective and efficient for the businesses and people our state serves.
Tom Feeney is President & CEO of Associated Industries of Florida.