Rep. Rob Matzie helps taxpayers save $5 million
HARRISBURG, Sept. 12 – State Rep. Rob Matzie, D-Beaver/Allegheny, is pleased that Treasurer Rob McCord has continued to deny payment on $3.4 million worth of invoices for a supposedly no-cost contract with Pennsylvania Interactive LLC., but he still has concerns over privacy implications, possible fees assessed to the public and the no-bid nature of the contract.
In April, Matzie wrote to state Treasurer Rob McCord asking him to halt the payments requested by the company. NICUSA, which is the parent company of Pennsylvania Interactive LLC, which has since amended its Securities and Exchange Commission filings to remove $5.1 million in estimated revenue generated from the state and writing off amounts due from the commonwealth.
“Pennsylvania taxpayers should be pleased that more than $5 million was not diverted from the Department of Transportation when our roads and bridges need repair,” Matzie said. “The company’s recent SEC filings show they have concerns about the contract. How often does a government contractor turn down an offer to be paid millions of dollars if it actually believes it is legally owed the money?”
The Corbett administration awarded a no-bid contract last year to the company for the renovation and management of Pennsylvania’s state websites. Despite the millions of dollars invoiced by the company, the contract was supposed to use a self-funding model that would cost the state nothing.
“Treasurer McCord should be commended for not giving in to the administration’s contractual shenanigans. No administration should be allowed to sign a contract, and then make changes to the amount of public money being spent, and certainly not without legislative approval and a full legal review,” Matzie said. “Despite the payments being stopped, I still believe that the contract should be terminated and put out to bid.”
According to a recent Pennsylvania Independent story, the state will implement a $2 fee on obtaining driver records from the PennDOT website beginning this fall.
“In essence, the administration is telling the insurance industry that we have a new website and we need to fund it, therefore we are increasing your fees for access to a transportation document to fund the commonwealth’s eGovernment services, and by the way you aren’t getting anything different or better than what was already available,” Matzie said. “That’s besides the fact that our state constitution clearly says that transportation fees should not be used for other purposes.”
Currently the driver record fee is the only one that has been announced and an administration official has claimed that no new fees are planned. That same official also suggested that legislative approval is not needed to implement these types of fees.
“If the administration can implement this fee without going to the General Assembly, what is to stop them from implementing other fees? A $2 fee may seem small, but the larger issue is the abuse of power we are seeing from this administration,” Matzie said. “I think the right thing to do in this situation is to take the issue of raising fees to the House and Senate and attempt to do it statutorily in the light of day.”
Previously, Matzie also expressed concerns about the possibility that this contract could be used to sell and collect data.
“The proof of this claim is right in the documents released by the administration,” Matzie said.
“If this contract is really solely about making the state’s website more user friendly, why was the purchase order describing what this surveillance system would look like issued a month before the purchase order to actually revise the state’s website?” Matzie said. “I recognize that the commonwealth may be obligated to release individual driving records, but the state government is not required to develop sophisticated software and a website surveillance system running 24/7.”
Matzie first became concerned about the contract with Pennsylvania Interactive due to its no-bid nature and after he learned about the company’s numerous competitors with similar capabilities. In March, Matzie sent a letter to Attorney General Kathleen Kane and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale alerting them to the possible inappropriate nature of the contract.