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|Contract Sunshine Act|
|Government Accountability Board|
Wisconsin's Contract Sunshine Act requires all state agencies in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches to report their purchasing activities amounting to
At the request of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, we addressed concerns about compliance with the Contract Sunshine Act and the accuracy and timeliness of information posted to the Contract Sunshine Web site by:
Web Site Development
The Contract Sunshine Act predates GAB, and no funding was initially appropriated for Web site development. The work was therefore completed by staff whose primary expertise was in other areas, and initial results were of limited use to the public.
In December 2006, the Joint Committee on Finance made $30,000 available to fund external development of the current Contract Sunshine Web site, which was launched
GAB directed a staff member to spend
As of November 2010, GAB had identified 95 agencies subject to Contract Sunshine reporting requirements. Not all state agencies regularly make purchases of
Only 12 agencies reported transactions in fiscal year
Moreover, GAB has at various times instructed agencies to report only their transactions of
In some instances, limitations in the Web site's design have also affected the timeliness and comprehensiveness of agency reporting. For example:
GAB has conducted training, developed a manual, and begun to develop administrative rules to clarify the types of transactions state agencies are required to report
and to formalize its own oversight responsibilities. Although statutes do not explicitly authorize GAB to promulgate rules for ensuring compliance with reporting
requirements or assign it responsibility for oversight of the reporting process, it has since
In November 2010, certification results for the first thee months of
Although some had expected the Contract Sunshine Web site to serve as an “open checkbook” showing how state agencies spend public funds, it has been of limited value in providing the public with clear, comprehensive, and useful information.
One reason is that the Contract Sunshine Act requires state agencies to report only the estimated value of contracts, solicitations, and certain other transactions, and actual expenditures may differ significantly fom these estimates.
Another is that information posted on the Web site separately indicates the values of a contract and all associated purchase orders. For example, if an agency executed a
In addition, the Contract Sunshine Act does not require agencies to report vendor names, although GAB has instructed them to do so, and it can be challenging for public users to locate particular transactions or to determine their purpose or the amount of a vendor's contracts based on the Web site's current configuration.
We also found considerable overlap in the purchasing information that state agencies report to the Contract Sunshine Web site and at least nine other Web sites.
In 2011 Wisconsin Act 32, the Legislature directed DOA to establish a new publicly accessible Web site that will report all expenditures for state operations exceeding $100.
If implemented as specified, this Web site could be more useful than the Contract Sunshine Web site for public monitoring of government purchasing transactions. However, before the Legislature considers repealing Contract Sunshine statutes, it will be important to ensure that the new Web site can achieve its intended goals at a reasonable cost and in a timely manner.
Our report includes a recommendation that:
After it reviews the information reported by DOA, we recommend that the Legislature either: