Fla. Lawmakers letting $5 million program go down the drain - FOX 13 News

Fla. Lawmakers letting $5 million program go down the drain

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TALLAHASSEE (FOX 13) -

It'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 it looks as if the program won't ever see the light of day.

The Florida Senate spent $5 million of taxpayers' cash for the system, called Transparency 2.0, but Senate leaders have kept it secret from the public.

Transparency 2.0 is hailed as a world-class program documenting how lawmakers spend your money. You can search Florida's budget and easily track no-bid contracts, salaries, even items that lawmakers quietly tuck into the budget.

Now the Senate wants to dump the program on the governor's office. But they can't agree on who should manage it, so it's scheduled to die at the end of the year.

Spokesman Dan Krassner believes the website would help save tax 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 said.

Government watchdog group Integrity Florida says information is power in Tallahassee, so it appears state leaders don't want Floridians to see sweetheart deals and wasteful spending.

"Information is power. 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," Krassner said.

State lawmakers set aside another $2.5 million for the governor's office to make the website public, but Gov. Rick Scott has not spent the money.

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.

Senate President Gaetz responded this afternoon, saying he's committed to improving transparency over government spending. Gaetz says 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.

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