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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.