Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Gov. Rick Scott calls for bids to build budget transparency website

TALLAHASSEE — A budget tracking website paid for by Florida taxpayers but never made public will remain on the shelf.

Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday that he will seek bids to create a public budget watchdog site, and the vendors of the existing system can get in line with everyone else.

"We have decided to begin a competitive procurement process to contract with a company that best demonstrates their ability to publish Web-based, user-friendly budget data at the lowest cost to taxpayers,'' said Melissa Sellers, communications director for the governor.

The Florida Senate paid $5 million to Spider Data Services to develop Transparency 2.0 for use by the Senate and its staff to monitor the budget, state contracts and personnel services. Although the system was ready to launch in November 2011, it was never unveiled.

A Times/Herald review of Transparency 2.0 shows that, unlike other transparency websites maintained by the Legislature, the governor's office or the chief financial officer, Transparency 2.0 allows for comprehensive and easy data searching for every line item in the budget. The system supplies planning and budget documents, and audit reports as well as contract information and links to personnel expenses.

It also shows which contracts were inserted into the budget by legislative leadership, offers a comprehensive look at billions of dollars in outside contracts and allows for the public to track budget data that today is controlled by agency and legislative staffers.

The governor's office has not ruled out the possibility that Transparency 2.0 may be the platform for the governor's website because Spider Data Services will be allowed to compete with other bidders, Sellers said. The bid process will be open to the public "while also ensuring we save as much taxpayer money as possible" and will begin in the new year, she said. There is no date for its scheduled completion.

State law requires that the governor's office create a budget tracking website and it already maintains a modest system called But the system has its flaws, including listing 27,922 contracts as "confidential" when a Times/Herald review found that many of those contracts are available to the public through a public records request.

Two government watchdog groups, Integrity Florida and the First Amendment Foundation, have called on Scott to take advantage of the Senate's investment and make Transparency 2.0 the platform for public access.

Dan Krassner of Integrity Florida said he hoped Scott would reconsider his decision to not give the public access to a system, even as he is seeking new bids.

"It's disappointing that Floridians will not have access to the powerful budget tracking website that was built with $5 million in public money,'' he said. "This is a victory for the Tallahassee insiders who will continue to know exactly how government spends our money while Floridians are left in the dark.''

The Senate contract was signed by the former chief of staff Steve MacNamara, who later become the governor's chief of staff. Before MacNamara left the governor's office, the Senate signed a memorandum of understanding transferring management of Transparency 2.0 to the governor but, uneasy about the way the contract was handled, MacNamara's successor, Adam Hollingsworth, refused to sign the agreement.

Legislators included $2.5 million in the 2012-13 budget to pay for increasing transparency of government budgets and contracts, but Scott has not tapped that money.

Bad blood remains between the state and the owners of Spider Data Systems, Anna Mattson and Sherri Taylor. The two women successfully won a $500,000 settlement against the state in 2008 after the House broke a contract with them to develop a Web-based budget and the governor's office developed a Web-based budget that was similar to the functions of their design.

Now, Scott's legal counsel has advised the governor's budget staff not to sign onto the Transparency 2.0 system — to assess how well it works — because they fear they could be sued for intellectual property theft.

Scott's office will start accepting bids for the new website after the first of the year. Meanwhile, Senate President Don Gaetz has assigned his staff to also look at creating a public website for legislative review.

Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at and on Twitter @MaryEllenKlas.

Gov. Rick Scott calls for bids to build budget transparency website 12/14/12 [Last modified: Friday, December 14, 2012 10:53pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Florida education news: Budgets, discipline, charter schools and more


    BUDGETING: Florida school district officials keep a close eye on their spending plans as they await word on the Legislature's budget. Gov. Rick Scott

  2. Forecast: Return of summertime pattern means afternoon storms on tap for Tampa Bay


    As if Memorial Day wasn't enough of a signal that summer truly is upon us, this week's forecast across the Tampa Bay area will be a stark reminder.

    Tampa Bay's 7-day forecast. [WTSP]
  3. Tiger Woods says medication, not alcohol, led to DUI arrest in Florida

    Public Safety

    Players arriving for a tournament this week at Muirfield Village might notice a framed picture of Tiger Woods with a resplendent smile and bright red shirt. He's posed there with the trophy, an image that embodies the excitement he once brought to golf.

    This image provided by the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office on Monday, May 29, 2017, shows Tiger Woods. Police in Florida say Tiger Woods was been arrested for DUI.  [Palm Beach County Sheriff's office via AP]
  4. Manuel Noriega, Panamanian strongman toppled in U.S. invasion, dies at 83


    Gen. Manuel Noriega, the Panamanian strongman and onetime American ally who was toppled from power in a 1989 U.S. invasion and who spent more than two decades imprisoned on drug dealing and conspiracy convictions, died late Monday. He was most likely 83.

    Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega waves to newsmen after a state council meeting, at the presidential palace in Panama City, where they announced the new president of the republic in 1989. Panama's ex-dictator Noriega died Monday, May 29, 2017, in a hospital in Panama City. He was 83. [Associated Press]
  5. Austin Mahone talks Pitbull, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, his pop evolution and more


    Austin Mahone has vivid memories from his childhood visits to see his grandparents in Tampa Bay.