Florida Governor Jeb Bush may award a $701 million contract that would turn over the functions of determining eligibility for Medicaid, food stamps and other social service programs to a private company. The contract would shave 6,400 workers from the state's payroll but comes amidst continuing controversy over the state's aggressive contracting practices.

Over the past several months, the state has cancelled several high- profile contracts and seven top officials at the Department of Children and Families have resigned in the wake of allegations that some contracts were rigged ["Sweetheart Deals," December 2004]. Most recently, Susan Henley, the director of the state's abuse hotline, was forced to resign in December after an inspector general found she had improperly awarded a training contract.

In addition, Robert Fierro, DCF's director of contract services, resigned in December, complaining that staff cuts made it impossible for him to monitor the flood of contracts. "The public is more often ill-served than well-served by haste in contracting," he wrote in a resignation letter released to the press.

Bush called Fierro's highly public resignation "self-serving." Lucy Hadi, DCF's new secretary, has imposed new reforms to address the complaints, including stepped-up ethics training for agency officials and putting limits on no-bid contracts.