Florida's State Email Contract Remains in Limbo

By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida
By: David Royse, The News Service of Florida

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Aug. 16, 2012

David Royse, The News Service of Florida

A legislative panel that makes mid-year changes in the budget meets Thursday, but won't consider a new state email contract, to the disappointment of the company on the verge of losing the chance to build it.

It's a massive contract for Xerox, which has already spent $30 million on the plan to switch all state agencies over to a single email system. The contract, worth $70 million total, was awarded last year to the company's subsidiary, Affiliated Computer Services. The funding was pulled earlier this year after a couple of legislators were apparently angered by the company's lack of progress.

That has left Xerox desperate to get lawmakers to reverse course. Company officials had been banking on a meeting of the Legislative Budget Commission on Thursday in Tallahassee, hoping the panel would restore the spending in the budget.

The company said Wednesday that it had "communicated our disappointment" to the state that the issue wouldn't come up, and "asked them to consider the implications of their decisions and respond to us within 10 days."

But lawmakers were holding firm.

"The Legislature expressly did not fund this contract …" a statement issued by a House Republican spokesman said Wednesday. "As required by law, the contract was subject to appropriation. The Legislature exercised its authority to de-fund the contract in part because Xerox was not at all on track with the schedule approved in June 2011. The LBC does not have the authority to reverse the explicit will of the Legislature."

Lawmakers had complained as early as June of last year that the contract had unforeseen problems, from confusion over whether the company or the state would have to archive email to where a building to host servers would be built.

The biggest concern appears to have been the timeline – with lawmakers saying the company wasn't moving fast enough. The company has contended all along it has met requirements.

Xerox officials have declined to say whether they might respond with a lawsuit if the state fails to re-start the contract. But that clearly might be in the offing.

"The Florida Enterprise email contract (also known as Message Florida) was lawfully competed and awarded to Xerox in 2011 after a rigorous and transparent competitive procurement process," said the Xerox spokeswoman, Jennifer Wasmer. "… We are disappointed that the Legislature has so far failed to honor and, in fact, openly disregarded the state's contractual obligations by impeding the continued implementation of the Florida enterprise email contract awarded to Xerox."

The contract would cover the switching of 115,000 email accounts over 33 agencies to the new single system. The company says it was on track to have the new system in place by October of this year, two months ahead of the deadline in the contract. Legislators have said that it has been behind schedule all along.


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