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House budget panel advances idea of tech czar

by John Kennedy | February 19th, 2014

The House budget committee Wednesday approved creating a new chief information officer for the state of Florida, consolidating a range of hardware and software  duties under a tech czar reporting to the governor.

The state currently spends $733 million annually on information technology without significant coordination, said Appropriations Chairman Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland. Most agencies operate their own data centers and critics say the current set-up is costlier to taxpayers and has led to some major department misfires.

The state’s Department of Economic Opportunity has been battling with technology giant Deloitte Consulting LLP over the state’s $63 million unemployment web site, problem-plagued since its debut last October. While a high-profile tech snafu, DEO’s woes aren’t alone.

A state technology contract for recouping Medicaid overpayments also has been troubled in recent years. Even the Legislature has spent heavily on public information websites it later scrapped.

Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, said the state not having a centralized technology department is laughable — something, he said that private companies in the 1980s saw a need for. Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, also said the $70 billion-plus state government demands more efficiency.

“I can’t imagine a business the size of this business that doesn’t have an IT governance structure,” Baxley said.

The House proposal, labeled a priority by House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, would create a 27-person Agency for State Technology, whose executive director would report directly to the governor. First-year costs would be $3.2 million.

The Senate is looking at a similar proposal.

While it would seem to place a huge volume of technology contracts more directly under the governor, lawmakers from both parties praised the approach.

Indeed, McKeel sounded the only sour notes Wednesday — saying that he was so frustrated by the actions of the state’s Department of Management Services, that he wanted them removed from the sole authority of Gov. Rick Scott and placed under the control of the governor and Cabinet.

DMS, the state’s main purchasing agent, has run afoul of McKeel on several issues, including the technology proposal. While McKeel withdrew his amendment redirecting authority of the agency Wednesday, he warned that he may make another attempt if DMS doesn’t shape up.

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2 Responses to “House budget panel advances idea of tech czar”

  1. Carlos Danger Says:

    Swing and a miss, or maybe a foul tip. This could get smelly.

  2. Bi-czar State of Florida Says:

    Why stop at “Tech Czar”? The State of Florida also needs a Corrupt Politician Czar, Useless Politician Czar, Worthless Politician Czar, and a special investigator to audit all state and federal czars – including Czars Scott and Obama.

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