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Post-veto, J.D. jabs back at Crist over PeopleFirst contract

You didn't expect Senate budget chairman J.D. Alexander to sit back quietly after seeing his financial oversight bill vetoed, did you?

Sen. Alexander, a vocal critic of state misspending, today sent Gov. Charlie Crist a letter urging him to direct the Department of Management Services to reconsider before renewing its $44-million contract with Convergys for the state's human resources management system, PeopleFirst.

In the letter, Sen. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, says the contract should be put back out to bid so that Convergys has to compete with other prospective vendors who can "put their best foot forward; thereby allowing our state to save money and receive the highest quality for the best price."

He notes that Convergys, hired in 2002, has "a history of repeated missed deadlines and cost overruns."

Alexander  jabs at Crist for vetoeing his bill, SB2694, which would have provided more legislative oversight of state contracts such as the Convergys one.

Keep reading for the letter:

June 2, 2009
Governor Charlie Crist
Governor State of Florida
PL 05 The Capitol
400 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, Fl 32399-0001
Governor Crist:
It has come to my attention that the Department of Management Services (DMS) intends to renew its contract with Convergys for the state’s human resources management system, PeopleFirst, for 5 more years without a competitive procurement.
In these challenging economic times we should be doing everything possible to save state dollars and ensure that every tax-payer dollar is spent wisely and in Florida’s best interest.  The current contract with Convergys is $44 million per year - assuming even the most experienced of state negotiators - there should be no question as to whether a contract this large should be vetted through a competitive process.  A competitive process is especially important given that the PeopleFirst contract has, to date, been renegotiated and amended 10 times resulting in fewer performance standards and less functionality than the original contract.  
This embattled contract started in 2002 and has been with the same vendor for nearly 7 years.  An automatic renewal would result in a 12 year contract with a vendor that has a history of repeated missed deadlines and cost overruns.   Even if Convergys offers to reduce their price, without a competitive process Florida loses the opportunity to review other companies offering their best solutions, with newer technology at their best prices. 
DMS should immediately issue a competitive procurement allowing Convergys to re-bid and any other prospective vendors to put their best foot forward; thereby allowing our state the opportunity to save money and receive the highest quality service for the best price.  Any attempt by the state to renegotiate in private would result in indeterminable savings.
Governor, it is this type of action by your executive agencies that prompted the Florida Legislature to pass SB 2694, which would rightly provide the proper legislative oversight of state contracts.  Had this legislation already existed, it would have prevented many of the initial problems with the PeopleFirst contract.  Clearly, such legislation is needed to establish proper accountability that is currently missing in this process.  
I look forward to working with you to develop legislation for next session that will establish an open accountable contract approval process.  Our goal remains to protect and serve the best interest of the people of Florida.  In the interim, I hope you will give your personal attention to the PeopleFirst and other contracts until we can place in law this important legislation.
JD Alexander
Senator District 17
Xc:   President Jeff Atwater
        Speaker Larry Cretul