There has been a lot of increased media activity in the past 48 hours and much misinformation spread on social media about TEFAP so we’re providing an update.
First, Feeding South Florida stated a few days ago that it would not engage in a back-and-forth online dialogue with another nonprofit and we reaffirm this position. We value service above all else, integrity, professionalism and civil discourse.
Second, this is a contract/scoring issue that we have taken to the Florida Dept. of Agriculture (FDACS) directly, with legal counsel. The solicitation appeared to be a competitive bid (RFP) pursuant to Chapter 287, so Feeding South Florida and food banks filed a Notice of Intent to Protest, as one would proceed under Chapter 287. We then filed a formal protest with the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH). The Intended Contract Recipient (ICR) motioned the court to intervene. Both FDACS and the ICR submitted to the court Motions to Dismiss arguing that the TEFAP contracts are not subject to Chapter 287 and can be awarded at the sole discretion of the Commissioner of Agriculture and cannot be protested.
Finally, we understand political writers have suggested this is a political issue. However, the issue is feeding families. That said, policy makers are elected to represent their constituents and govern in their best interests. When such a large contract with even larger implications for nearly one million people in need of assistance is inaccurately awarded based on glaring errors, it’s incumbent upon policy makers to do the right thing and intervene. Realizing that the errors in the scoresheets were not personally done so by Commissioner Fried herself, Feeding South Florida brought the inaccuracies to her attention at which time she maintained that there was nothing she could do. An Administrative Law Judge has since ruled otherwise.
Now, only after publicly releasing scoresheets, and with increased awareness about this complex issue, has Commissioner Fried personally committed to reviewing the applications. While that’s encouraging, after Anthony Man’s follow up article in the June 9th Sun-Sentinel, and seeing the pernicious, malicious, grossly inaccurate and bullying tactics from the Intended Contract Recipient (ICR), there’s cause for concern about the thoroughness of the review process, especially after reading FDACS spokesperson’s response that seems to be in direct conflict with Commissioner Fried’s statement.
The spokesman states, “The contract was evaluated the same as all others, our department met with Feeding South Florida and listened to their concerns about the results, and the scoring was reviewed and validated numerous times by multiple department divisions. We are confident that our transparent, impartial evaluation has led to the best-qualified vendor to feed South Florida’s families.”
Even after seeing the scoresheets, with mathematical errors and inaccuracies, if the Dept. of Ag. still maintains a thorough review process was already conducted, and the IRC continues to publicly state it won the contract, even after Commissioner Fried said she will review, Feeding South Florida and its supporters continue to be concerned about the Commissioner’s review process
That’s why, Feeding South Florida and its supporters are asking Commissioner Fried to review and accurately rescore its applications with the oversight of an impartial third-party to ensure transparency. A thorough review includes includes all of the following:
- The creation of a clear rubric that assigns standardized point values;
- Ensures full points are awarded commensurate with all “excellent” remarks;
- Properly accounts and scores for the infrastructure and assets necessary for our local region;
- Ensures all reviewers have access to all the information that was provided;
- Preference is given for online ordering and auto-monitored cold storage, per the application.
While the Intended Contract Recipient has since stated they would invest in additional warehouse space, nowhere in the application, or in the ICR’s response did it mention the plan for additional resources. This is cause for concern for a few reasons: 1) not having these resources already in place speaks to the fact that their current assets are insufficient, yet the contract was awarded to them regardless (confirming our assertion that capacity was not taken into account), and 2) these are taxpayer dollars. It’s not fiscally responsible – nor does it make sense – for FDACS to award a contract to an organization who first has to invest in additional infrastructure to handle the contract when a capable and reputable organization already has everything in place.
Simply put, this is about feeding families. In what was an unprecedented year, Feeding South Florida became the second largest food bank in the United States, distributing 176 million pounds of food in 2020 – to just four counties. And per each organization’s application, in FY20, Feeding South Florida distributed 119 million pounds of food to just four counties alone whereas the ICR distributed 104 million pounds across the state. It is a fact that no other organization has the fleet, warehouse, technology, nonprofit network or experience serving the four counties. We believe that all of the ICR’s statements actually affirm these assertions. It is also a fact that no other organization brought in as much additional bonus streams of TEFAP into its contracted regions as Feeding South Florida did theirs, despite the fact that all contractors had the opportunity to do so. It’s these bonus streams that are of concern; without Feeding South Florida’s push for additional product, there will not be as much food for South Florida families.
This brings to mind a few questions:
- If the TEFAP contract is not competitive and not appealable then why have entities submit proposals and have 5 reviewers and scoring sheets?
- When presented with clear scoring errors, why not review the applications?
- Why award an organization with a contract who first has to scale up to handle a contract that is already more than being handled by the current contract holder?
These questions have yet to be answered, and it’s why we’re calling on the public to help hold policy makers accountable for good use of taxpayer dollars, making decisions that are in the best interest of families, and most importantly, committing to transparency and accuracy in their contract awarding processes.
We’re hopeful that now this is in full public view, Commissioner Fried reviews and accurately rescores Feeding South Florida’s applications in a transparent way that employs the use of a third-party reviewer, creates a clear rubric that assigns standardized point values, ensures full point values are awarded, properly accounts and scores for the infrastructure and assets necessary for our local region, ensures all reviewers have access to the information provided, and per the application language, preference is given for online ordering and auto-monitored cold storage for all areas under air.
Finally, we ask that the ICR immediately ceases sending misleading information, but especially to those in need of assistance who are inquiring about Feeding South Florida’s programs that are in no way related to TEFAP. Although it will be devastating to families if Feeding South Florida loses the TEFAP contract, this decision does not impact our other streams of food. Feeding South Florida has served our community for 40 years and will continue doing so via our network of partner agencies, direct service programs, and innovative solutions that help break the cycle of hunger and poverty.