Sunday, March 21, 2010

Senator Dave Aronberg Seeks Details on Convergys Sale

Concerned by the recent news that the private American-based company responsible for handling Florida’s most sensitive employee data has been sold to a foreign firm, state Senator Dave Aronberg (D-Greenacres) has made inquiries to State and company officials to better understand just who knew what and when.

“I have reservations about this entire deal,” said Sen. Aronberg. “Did the company or agency know about the pending deal when they renegotiated the contract’s renewal? Did the selling price hinge in any way on Florida's signature on the dotted line?”

At issue is the recent announcement that Convergys’ human resources division has been sold to British-based NorthgateArinso. The news comes just three months after the company inked a 5-year, $248 million contract extension with the state of Florida to continue operating the state’s personnel service known as “People First.”

The deal could be problematic since Convergys handles some of the most sensitive personnel data under a human resources outsourcing contract first struck in 2002. Despite contractual language mandating that all personnel services be done in Florida, the extension signed with Convergys in December could mean that private data on all state employees, including law enforcement and others with restricted access to personal information, would be handed off to a foreign firm as part of the sale, the Senator noted.

In letters sent Tuesday to Department of Management Services Secretary Linda South, and Convergys President and CEO Jeff Fox, Aronberg, who is vice chairman of the Senate Policy and Steering Committee on Governmental Operations, asked pointed questions about the timing of the contract renewal and the subsequent sale.

He is also scheduled to meet with DMS officials on Thursday to follow up on the controversial issue.

“When did your agency become aware of the impending sale of Convergys’ HR unit to NorthgateArinso?” wrote Aronberg to DMS head South.

“Was there any indication from the company, prior to the contract extension agreement, that it was engaged in any talks with a potential buyer?” he penned in his letter to Convergys’ Fox.

The Senator, a long-time watchdog on privatization accountability, also asked both Fox and South to explain what safeguards will be in place to protect the data and ensure that it remains in Florida.

“Whenever foreign companies are in control of sensitive personal information, it raises concerns for me,” he said.

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