Last week, Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis issued a directive bolstering transparency requirements for vendors that do business with the Department of Financial Services (DFS).
Among a number of provisions, the directive requires DFS leverage the country-of-origin vendor survey that was issued in May, prior to entering into a new contract or approving vendor contract amendments. The directive also requires the Department provide legal recommendations on pursuing claims against the Communist Party of China for its cover-up of COVID-19 and requires the Department to provide statutory recommendations on bolstering transparency by identifying and reporting the foreign or domestic status of each vendor’s ownership structure that possess majority ownership of vendors that receive taxpayer money from Floridians.
“Recently, we heard from the Joint Legislative Budget Commission that Florida taxpayers are going to be out over $5 billion because of a pandemic that the Chinese-government tried covering up,” Patronis said on Thursday. “In fact, the Chinese government went as far as blaming the United States for COVID-19, which is the type of diversion tactic a guilty party would use. Meanwhile, the State of Florida is cutting checks that total billions of dollars every year – and many of these dollars go to vendors that may be owned by the Communist Party of China. Florida, as well as the United States, will need remedies for recouping the losses that resulted from COVID-19, and today’s directive takes much-needed steps in bolstering transparency and tightening our efforts of holding the Chinese government accountable for how they wronged our state and nation.”
The directive bolsters transparency by ensuring Department vendors that are domiciled outside of the state are properly registered with the State of Florida as a foreign entity. To ensure this standard is met, the Department will crosscheck the country-of-origin vendor survey that was distributed in May, and if a vendor has not been responsive to the survey, Department staff will crosscheck other state records to identify whether the vendor is properly registered to transact business in Florida. The new review will be initiated before any new contracts, or contract amendments, with DFS are executed. To date, the Department has received more than 20,000 responses to the vendor survey. If no registration information is provided, DFS will pause the amendment or contracting process until the domestic or foreign nature of the vendor is identified and documented.
Additionally, the directive requires the Department’s subject matter experts provide recommendations for increasing transparency regarding the extent to which Florida’s vendors are owned or controlled by foreign interests. Under the directive the Department will investigate how vendor-interfacing policies can be statutorily augmented to bolster transparency. The directive also requires of the Office of General Counsel within DFS provide recommendations on pursuing claims against the Communist Party of China. Both recommendations are due to the Chief of Staff within 45-days.