By Barbara Petersen & Dan Krassner from TCPALM:
Florida Senate president, Mike Haridopolos contracted with Spider Data Services to develop an unprecedented budget- tracking system at a cost of nearly $5 million. That system, Transparency 2.0, is now fully developed and ready for use, but recent reports suggest Florida lawmakers may well walk away, shelving the program.
For reasons that are not entirely clear, the Senate handed management of the program to the governor's office over the summer, but Rick Scott does not appear to be ready or willing to take ownership of Transparency 2.0, and has yet to sign an agreement with the Senate, transferring the contractual obligations to the executive branch.
The contract with Spider Data Services runs through the end of this year. That means that if action is not taken before Dec. 31 to renew the contract, it will expire without the program ever being launched, leaving Floridians in the dark and $5 million poorer.
With the support and encouragement of Gov. Scott's staff and Senate President Don Gaetz, we met with Spider Data Services. We were provided user names and passwords, and allowed unfettered access to the Transparency 2.0 website. We compared Transparency 2.0 to two current transparency websites — Transparency Florida.gov, created two years ago by the Florida Legislature, and MyFlorida CFO.com/Transparency and its sister website, https://facts.fldfs.com — both created and maintained by Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater. It is our conclusion that Florida would save millions of dollars and receive an A grade for public access to government spending and financial information on national report cards that track budget transparency sites if Transparency 2.0 launches.
The First Amendment Foundation and Integrity Florida strongly recommend the governor and our legislative leaders take steps necessary to provide a globally competitive level of budget transparency and public access to information through the public launch of Transparency 2.0.
Barbara Petersen, president of the Florida First Amendment Foundation, and Dan Krassner, executive director of Integrity Florida, work in Tallahassee. The Florida First Amendment Foundation is a member of NFOIC. -- eds.