What if you could easily follow the money Florida spends on one website? That’s the idea behind a budget transparency program that has been around for a year, cost $5 million in state funds and remains under review in the Florida Senate.
However, the vendor behind the program says that it will cost even more to open the system up to allow the public to view it.
The new program has been dubbed Transparency 2.0 and was created by a company called Spider Data Systems. Current senate president Don Gaetz said in a statement on Friday that the senate and Spider Data systems negotiated a contract in 2011 to develop “a website to make it easier for legislators and legislative staff to track state spending and contracting.”
First Amendment Foundation President Barbara Petersen said the program is now coming under fire because it has yet to be released to the public.
“I’m a little astonished,” said Petersen, who noted the program has been in operation for a year but not made available. “…to talk about letting the public see how the government spends our money, (the program’s unavailability) makes no sense to me.”
Petersen tested the new program and compares it favorably against a previous transparency program.
“Transparency 2.0, the $5 million website, not only connects all those dots, it gives me dots I never even thought of. I compare it to an iPhone and a rotary phone.”
While Transparency 2.0 cost nearly five million taxpayer dollars, District 7 State Senator Rob Bradley says the original contract with Spider Data Systems never included public disclosure.
“That’s certainly a concern to me, and I know it’s a concern to (senate) president Gaetz.”
Spider Data Systems specified that “allowing the media and public access to the site would require an undetermined additional investment of taxpayer money over and above the five million dollars already spent,” Gaetz said in his statement.
Petersen says the contract between the Florida senate and Spider Data Systems will be up for negotiation soon and this may give the opportunity to allow public access.