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Watchdog groups: Gov. Scott can save Transparency 2.0

A day after Gov. Rick Scott told reporters that the fate of Transparency 2.0 budget accountability web site is not his problem because "that's controlled by the Senate," two watchdog groups have written a letter outlining his responsibility and urging him to save it.

Integrity Florida and the First Amendment Foundation urged the governor to put the $5 million already spent by the state into making the site public, instead of starting from scratch. Under state law, the governor is required to provide a budget transparency web site for the public.

The Florida Senate signed a no-bid contract with Spider Data Systems to develop the web site and make it available for staff and legislators to use. The web site has been ready to launch for a year but legislative leaders choose to keep it under wraps.

"You have set a goal of providing all citizens the information they need to make the same decisions as a legislator, which is exactly what Transparency 2.0, already paid for with nearly $5 million in taxpayer money would do. Why not let the public see the $5 million budget tracking program already paid for with their money?,'' wrote Dan Krassner of Integrity Florida and Barbara Petersen of the First Amendment Foundation in a letter to Scott on Wednesday.  Download Governor Scott can save Transparency 2.0 - Letter FAF IF 12.12.12

Scott told reporters Tuesday that his office is working on meeting the requirements of the law. "The goal is, from Day One of my administration, is how do we get you more information. We started doing that. We haven't finished that,'' he said. As for Transparency 2.0, the web site paid for the Senate, Scott said: "That's controlled by the Senate. Sen. Gaetz controls that. We don't."  

The outgoing Senate chief of staff, Craig Meyer, signed a memorandum of understanding in June to transfer management of the program over to the governor but his office never signed it.

On Monday, Senate President Don Gaetz wrote to senators outlining his objections to the contract, signed by his predecessor, and asking two senators to review it.

in their letter to Scott, Krassner and Petersen suggest that the Legislature's objections are "unreasonable." They challenge the argument offered by Gaetz in his letter to members that because of the no-bid contract given to the vendor, Spider Data Systems, the product of the contract should remain shielded from access.

"According to the Florida Accountability Contract Tracking System, there are more than 500 active single-source (no-bid) contracts in state government worth more than $300 million. Should the state cancel all of these contracts for being no-bid?,'' Krassner and Petersen asked.

They also challenged Gaetz's demand that the vendors disclose who owns them. "Will the more than 20,000 other state government vendors also have to disclose their owners and investors as has been requested of Spider Data? Is that a new regulation that will be imposed on all employers wishing to do business with the State of Florida?"

Finally, they addressed the complaint raised by Gaetz that the Senate agreed to the contract but didn't own the technology. "Is the new standard that if Microsoft, Google, IBM or other companies with patented intellectual property become vendors of state government, they would also be required to transfer ownership of their intellectual property to the State of Florida as has been requested of Spider Data? What signal would this send about Florida being open for business to the global marketplace?"

Despite the Legislature's resistance to making the web site public, Integrity Florida brought the concept to Washington. D.C. on Monday. at an event hosted by Global Integrity at the OpenGov Hub during a breakout session titled "Budgets: How do we make government budgets more user friendly?".  Attendees confirmed to Integrity Florida that Transparency 2.0 would provide a globally competitive level of budget transparency and public access to information.