(previously published here at www.thebulletin.us)
By: Heather J. Chin, The Bulletin
In a move that increases the transparency of government goings-on, the state Treasury has created the Pennsylvania Contracts e-Library - a new Web-based database where public users can search and find any government contract. It is the result of revisions signed in February by Governor Ed Rendell to the state open records law - the Right-to-Know Law.
Pennsylvania Treasurer Robin L. Weissmann publicly unveiled the database, available through the Treasury Department's Web site, www.patreasury.org, Tuesday morning at a press conference at the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg, describing the site as the first step toward making Pennsylvania government more open and accessible.
"Since taking office ... I have been committed to making the Commonwealth's financial information and operations more accessible to all Pennsylvanians," said Ms. Weissmann. "We are pleased to offer this new free, online service as part of our commitment to bringing good governance and transparency into all of our day-to-day operations."
The Contracts e-Library was launched in only four months, with Ms. Weissmann saying in a prepared statement that treasury staff held focus groups with users and built the online portal for the database. The e-Library is already up and running, but the additional requirements of the law are not scheduled to take effect until Jan. 1, 2009.
The Treasury Dept. will be responsible for the system's infrastructure and maintenance, but each state government agency is responsible for uploading its information. Agencies are required to provide summaries with every contract for easier access and identification. Every search will also include links to any related contracts, such as amendments and purchase orders, to help public users to track an agency's transactions with a particular vendor.
The revised Right-to-Know law details that all government records, save for many dated before July 1, 2008, are open to the public. For contracts dated prior to that point, public users would have to send a request, labeled under the RTK law, to the Treasury Dept. via email or telephone.
"The passage of the Right-to-Know Law earlier this year was an important step toward boosting the public's trust in government," Mr. Rendell said, adding that "the Pennsylvania Contracts e-Library is the first of many action items from that law that ... will continue to break down the barriers between Pennsylvania citizens and government."
Heather J. Chin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
©The Evening Bulletin 2008