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Senate: transparency contract is under review but public access is not an option

Senate President Don Gaetz asked his legal counsel, George Levesque, to review the Senate's contract with the company that developed the software program that is the foundation for the Senate's budget transparency program, Transparency 2.0.

As the Herald/Times reported last month, the Senate tested the program and it was available for senators to use during the 2012 budget cycle but was kept on hold. A new report by the watchdog groups Integrity Florida and the First Amendment Foundation has concluded that the web site, developed by Spider Data systems and paid $4.5 million by the Senate, "would save millions of dollars" if legislators, and the public, were given access to it.

The contract with the company expires this month, however, and the Senate has no plan to take the program public nor to make it available for Senate staff to use.

Gaetz spokeswoman Katie Betta said in a statement late Wednesday that the Senate president is "planning to meet with the vendor to review the product and their proposal for a contract extension" and will determine whether the Senate will make the program available to senators and staff then. 

Here's Betta's full statement:

President Gaetz directed the Senate General Counsel to review the contract with Spider Data Services, LLC to determine the Senate's obligations under the contract.

Under the contract, the Senate purchased a non-exclusive license for a budget analysis tool which was to be customized exclusively for the internal use of the Senate, and potentially made available to the entire Legislature.  The Senate has no proprietary rights to the product. As with other outside products and services, the vendor has sole authority to market or sell the product to any governmental, private or public entity at any time, at any price. If the Senate wishes to continue using the tool, it must pay for ongoing use of the software.

The contract with Spider Data provides 600 licenses, assigned by the vendor, to be used by Senators and their staff. Under the current contract, the ongoing license and maintenance cost is $250,000 per quarter for the 600 Senate licenses. Senator Gaetz is planning to meet with the vendor to review the product and their proposal for a contract extension. At that point, he will consider the cost and usage and consider feedback from Senators and staff before making a determination as to whether or not the Senate will continue the contract, which again provides access only to Senators and the Senate Staff.

The contract does contain a provision that allows the Senate to recoup a fraction of the initial cost of development if the vendor uses the Spider Data Services System as the basis for development of a similar system for another entity except for systems developed for the Executive Branch of Florida. Thus far, the Senate has not been able to recoup any of the $5.5 million in taxpayer funds associated with the development.


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Let's see now ... this upcoming legislative year, according to Don (like the mafia boss) Gaetz and Speaker Wetherford, is supposed fix a lot of what is wrong with ethics rules in the legislature.

Simple question: Don, what could better aid the legislature in behaving ethically than to make it easy for us, mere citizens, out here to be able to easily see where our taxpayer money is going, to whom and for what?

I don't give a fig about this contractor and how much money they make, if their product and its accessibility by the taxpayers is made good. The real question is, if you persist in hiding information about spending our money, from us taxpayers: what are you power-mongers wanting to hide?

honest abe

How many transparency systems does the state require?? At least three have already been developed...

One for the CFO, one for the appropriations committees and OPB developed by in house staff for far less than the amount of the Spider Systems contract. Why were these prior systems/investments ignored?

Has anyone looked into whether it was legal for the Senate to enter into a multimillion dollar no-bid contract? State agencies are not authorized to do this as a part of normal business operations. Perhaps macnamara and haridopolis believed state laws and good business practices did not apply? Has anyone looked into the relationship between spider systems and macnamara/haridoplis? spider systems lobbyists and macnamara / haridopolis? spider systems staffs' history with appropriations and governor's office personnel?

appears to be one more example of state officials working against the best interests of florida citizens and the cronyism that one has come to expect of the RPOF.


didn't spider staff work for many years in the office of policy and budget and house appropriations? seems like the information listed as proprietary is really a public record. why couldn't context have been easily added to the existing systems? why wasn't this adequately considered?

interesting how this good contract allows a private entity to own proprietary rights to public information that should be readily available to all florida citizens. all in the interest of transparency and access, i guess!

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