Saying he believes that the more information legislators have, the better, Florida Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis told The Capitolist in an exclusive interview he is pushing an initiative to expose the countries of origin of vendors trying to do business with the state of Florida.
“My attitude is we must empower our policy leaders with more information,” said Patronis. “This session we’re going to be pursuing vendor transparency reforms. We’ve got to take a further look at China and also nonprofits and these other entities that are getting our taxpayer dollars.”
Last fall, Patronis issued a directive bolstering transparency requirements for vendors that do business with the Department of Financial Services (DFS).
The directive required that before entering into any new contract, the department must check country-of-origin vendor surveys issued in May. The directive also required DFS provide legal recommendations on pursuing claims against the Communist Party of China for its role in the emergence of COVID-19 and required the Department to provide statutory recommendations on bolstering transparency by identifying and reporting the foreign or domestic status of each vendor’s ownership structure.
This current initiative would take the issue further. Patronis said he expects bills to be filed in the Florida House and Senate, possibly by the end of the week. Calls to the named legislators to confirm that went unanswered.
“Over the years, Florida has taken positions on countries like Venezuela, now I think its time to look at China,” Patronis told The Capitolist. “China’s got some problems. Even the Biden administration has admitted that China will eat our lunch, but I think the message out of Washington hasn’t been consistent. I think the Biden administration has been backsliding and on this issue.”
“Speaker Sprowls (has) really taken a hard stance on this, and has been fighting to ensure that our state universities disclose their connections to the Chinese state,” Patronis continued, “Senators (Rick) Scott and (Marco) Rubio have been also playing in this lane to hold China accountable.”
Beyond foreign involvement, Patronis reiterated more transparency is needed with nonprofits and other entitiies that take taxpayer dollars. He used the Coalition Against Domestic Violence as an example. Last year, state lawmakers abruptly ended the coalitions’ relationship with the Department of Children and Families (DCF). DCF cancelled its contract and filed a lawsuit accusing the coalition’s CEO Tiffany Carr and the nonprofit of breach of contract after the discovery that Carr received compensation totaling at least $7.5 million over three years.
“I spoke with House Speaker (Chris) Sprowls earlier this week. We’re going to work together on holding nonprofits accountable to the taxpayers. There’s a lot of these groups that literally live off the taxpayer dollars. There’s a lot of groups that get a lot of pay but they spend it on other things than services and I want to know more about that. We write the checks. We should be empowered with more details that we need to see the results of where these tax dollars are being spent,” Patronis said.
He said whether it is foreign governments or nonprofits or other entities, the state needs to make sure those doing business with the state are transparent and held to account.
“We need to make sure that we’re empowering the governor and legislature to do exactly that,” Patronis said, “and I’m trying to create more information available to the legislature, to our citizens. We need to let them see where their tax dollars are being spent.”