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FDOT procurement meeting canceled after FloridaPolitics.com report

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I guess we can count the Florida Department of Transportation among our beloved readership — along with the many pols, staffers, voters and taxpayers who check in with SaintPetersBlog every day.

After our reporting this week on a transportation contract procurement process that seems to have gone a little squirrelly, FDOT announced Tuesday that it has canceled a public meeting previously set for Wednesday on precisely that issue.

On Monday we wrote about an ITN process — “Invitation to Negotiate,” in the parlance of procurement — that left a lot to be desired in terms of transparency.

Check out the story for a refresher, but to recap: The FDOT convened a committee to rank proposals from a handful of companies looking to take on a massive project, namely, the administration of a huge swath of Florida’s highway tolls. That committee, made up of eight representatives — two from each of the four expressway authorities that oversee the toll roads in question — decisively recommended the technology company Accenture as the one for the job.

Later on, however, a smaller and less representative FDOT panel reversed that recommendation and instead selected document management company Xerox, for reasons unclear to us or to most observers of the process.

They cited as a factor that their pick carried a supposedly lower level of risk. However, that didn’t quite jibe with a number of recent news reports about problems with similar Xerox-helmed projects in California and Texas, plus a few others we didn’t enumerate because, hey, no company is perfect and accidents do happen. (Although the phantom tickets being issued to drivers around San Francisco did seem a bridge too far, pardon the pun.)

Suffice it to say that the procurement vetting process left some key questions unanswered. That’s why, when we heard rumors the department was about to award the contract to Xerox this week, we recommended that FDOT take a step back and re-examine the outstanding issues in this case.

Specifically, we implored:

Whether this […] is done by way of an internal tapping of the brakes by FDOT; whether a court finds that a new ITN is in order after the fact; or whether an interested Legislature intercedes to make a corrective action, whatever form such a move would best assume, one thing is for sure amid these murky seas — all stakeholders involved, most importantly the taxpayers who will fund this work, ought to take a step back and reexamine this procurement and the process that governs it.

We’re glad they’re doing that, as are the millions of Floridian motorists who travel these highways every day.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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