Dear Fellow Floridians:
Floridians deserve to know what’s going on in their government. Their tax dollars are used to fund it and, if they choose to look, they should be able to see how those dollars are spent. Thankfully, our state’s history of operating openly dates back a long time — all the way to 1909.
Since then, Florida’s transparency practices have grown and evolved. In 1976, the Government-in-the-Sunshine Law was passed that granted Floridians access to government meetings. A call was made by the people, for the people. A call for accountability, trust and transparency — and Florida was forever changed.
Graphic Courtesy of the First Amendment Foundation
Why am I telling you this now? It’s Sunshine Week, the one week a year that’s set aside to celebrate Florida’s access to information. Hosted by the First Amendment Foundation, it serves as a reminder that the 20 million people of Florida are watching, and that leaders have a duty to honor that commitment to operating openly.
During my time in public office, I’ve tried to do my part as well.
When I first took office in 2011, no one person could definitively report how many contracts Florida had in place with outside vendors. Given the sheer size of Florida’s budget, a lack of transparent accountability threatened to open the door for waste, fraud and abuse. It didn’t go unnoticed and an independent organization called the Public Interest Research Group actually gave a “D” on their “Following the Money” report that tracks state spending.
Something had to be done to get us on track, and I made a commitment to get the information together and to put it all online. So, we created the Florida Accountability Contract Tracking System, more commonly known as FACTS, in 2012. This first-of-its-kind, comprehensive online tool offers Floridians unprecedented visibility into what contracts have been established, and how much money has been spent for a particular good or service.
But we didn’t stop there. Each year, we’ve worked to make the system more accessible and user-friendly for Floridians. FACTS now includes contact audits, grant award information, and even scans of actual contracts executed by state agencies. By putting contract amounts right on the web, it leveled the playing field for business owners who wanted to bid for state business. This also meant that there was far less opportunity for back-door deals done far away from inquiring minds.
I’m proud to say that each year I’ve been in office, our score on the “Following the Money” report has improved. Our state’s access to financial information has gone from one of the lowest in the nation to cracking the top 10 list. Florida now has an “A.”
For more information about the Florida Accountability Contract Tracking System (FACTS) and to see how your money is being spent, visitwww.MyFloridaCFO.com/Transparency.
Good governance is only possible when transparency and citizen engagement go hand in hand. We have plenty of sunshine in Florida, so let’s keep it that way.
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida