Crist Reviews Privatization, Convergys Contract; the State of Florida's Human Resources Are Handled by the Local Company, a Deal Worth $350 Million

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Byline: J. TAYLOR RUSHING

TALLAHASSEE - Gov. Charlie Crist launched a major review Wednesday of Florida's outsourcing practices, starting with a trio of controversial contracts that include Jacksonville's Convergys Corp.

If the review reveals privatization of state programs is a failed experiment, Crist made it clear he may order the work to return to the government. He also may overturn at least some of the privatization practices that flourished under former Gov. Jeb Bush.

"The review will serve as a starting point for evaluating ... whether or not privatization has merit," Crist said. "If it does, it should continue. If it doesn't, it should not."

Convergys Corp., which has 2,000 Jacksonville-area employees, has one of the largest private contracts with the state, at $350 million. The 2002 deal charged the firm with handling human resources, payroll and benefits processing as part of a People First system created for more than 120,000 employees, with the work assigned to the company's Employee Care division in Jacksonville.

A subcontractor is believed to have outsourced the information to India and much of it - including employees' Social Security numbers, medical records and other personal information - was compromised, although a state audit found it was not stolen.

Crist announced the review along with four appointments to the state's seven-member Council on Efficient Government, a legislatively-created panel that will handle the review. The governor nominated Democratic Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, Department of Management Services Secretary Linda South, Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary Holly Benson and Department of Revenue Director Jim Zingale. The three other seats will be filled by individuals from the private sector, two of whom will be named by Crist and one by Sink. The private-sector nominees must be confirmed by the Senate.

The Council on Efficient Government will be investigating the three contracts. …