ransparency 2.0 is hailed as a world-class budget-tracking system that would make Florida government more accountable. But state leaders are keeping the program secret.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Here's an example of state government spending that'll probably make your blood boil.
Florida taxpayers have spent $5 million to buy a state-of-the-art budget-tracking program that aims to put government spending in the sunlight, but the program may never see the light of day.
The Florida Senate spent $5 million of taxpayers' cash to use the system called Transparency 2.0, but Senate leaders have kept it secret from the public.
Now government watchdog group Integrity Florida is calling on Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders to shed the cloak of secrecy over the program.
Spokesman Dan Krassner said allowing Floridians to use Transparency 2.0 would help save taxpayer dollars.
"The public is the best watchdog. Corruption does not like sunlight and disclosure is the key to accountability. We have 19 million Floridians that should have the opportunity to be 19 million government watchdogs to see every penny of our money. Our money has already been spent on this website -- $5 million to build a website that ought to be launched for the public to see."
Krassner hails Transparency 2.0 as a world-class program documenting how lawmakers spend your money. It can search deep into Florida's budget and easily track no-bid contracts, salaries, even items that lawmakers quietly truck into the budget.
The Senate wants to dump the program on the governor's office.
But Gov. Rick Scott and Senate President Don Gaetz can't agree on who should manage it, so Transparency 2.0 is scheduled to die at the end of the year.
Krassner said information is power in Tallahassee, so it appears that's why state leaders don't want Floridians to use the program.
"Presently in Tallahassee, where our money is going, who's getting the no-bid contracts and the sweetheart deals, that information is known by just the insiders. If Transparency 2.0 launched, the public, every Floridian would see every no-bid deal. All the wasteful spending."
State lawmakers set aside another $2.5 million this year for the governor's office to make the website public, but Gov. Rick Scott has not spent the money.
Integrity Florida is calling on Gov. Scott to save Transparency 2.0.
"There's a tremendous opportunity for Gov. Scott to become the transparency governor, to launch Transparency 2.0, to leave a lasting legacy for Florida as the transparency governor if he decides to launch this website."
However, complicating the issue is the fact that Transparency 2.0 itself was born as a result of a no-bid contract a couple of years ago and that makes it politically radioactive to some degree.
Plus, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater operates budget-transparency websites as well, raising the question of whether Transparency 2.0 duplicates existing technology.
But a study by Integrity Florida and the First Amendment Foundation finds Transparency 2.0 is more innovative, easier to use and uncovers better information about government spending.
Krassner said Floridians should at least get the chance to check out the website as Gov. Scott decides the fate of the program.
"Let the public test drive this site and compare it to what else is out there. Let the public see where their money is going. Let the public see what they paid for."
Senate President Gaetz responded this afternoon, saying he's committed to improving transparency over government spending.
Gaetz said he will ask senators if they want to continue the Transparency 2.0 contract. Plus, he wants to develop legislation that would make a similar tool available to the public.
First Coast News