A little more sunshine is always a good thing. Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater is attempting to open up the state's byzantine contracting system to greater public scrutiny. Atwater last week unveiled a new tool on his office's website that allows citizens to search and see how the state's agencies spend $47 billion in contracts for goods and services — representing more than half the state's annual $70 billion budget.
The contracts could use a lot more scrutiny. In the rush to privatize so much in state government, accountability has not always prevailed. A review of 24,000 contracts across 33 state agencies by Atwater found problems with 35 percent of the paperwork. The Florida Accountability Contract Tracking System — called FACTS — comes after Atwater's effort to create a more uniform and transparent system of awarding and monitoring state contracts fell victim to turf wars within the Florida Legislature. Now Floridians can serve as de facto state auditors.