BATON ROUGE - Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis announced today that detailed information on existing state government services contracts has been added to LaTrac, the state's Transparency and Accountability Portal and Online State Spending Database. Louisiana now joins only three other states - California, Georgia, and Texas - whose state governments provide detailed services contract information online.
As part of a continuing effort to enhance LaTrac's capabilities, the new online contracts feature allows users to search contracts by categories or to view all contracts and sort them according to government agency, contractor name, contract type, or contract amount. Details of the contract can then be viewed by clicking on the row of a given contract.
The online contracts feature may be accessed though the main LaTrac website at www.latrac.la.gov or directly at www.latrac.la.gov/contracts.
"Given the budget challenges facing state government, every dollar for every program is under scrutiny, and now we are introducing an incredible tool that uses technology toward greater scrutiny of tax dollars spent through state government contracts," said Davis.
Davis also placed the new online contracts initiative within a broader context of reforms.
Davis said: "Greater transparency is critically important, but only if it leads to greater accountability, which in turn translates into the wise use of taxpayer dollars. We are in the midst of a period of continuous reform to reduce government spending in a thoughtful and serious manner. And a thoughtful solution to contract reform requires a three-fold approach that includes reforming the budgeting process, increasing transparency and accountability in contracts, and dramatically improving an outdated and inefficient procurement process.
"First, because contracting is a function of budgeting, the new outcome-based budgeting process we are utilizing to develop the budget helps us to dig down and receive more detailed information about how a certain activity is helping the state achieve outcomes that are important to our citizens.
"Second, the increased transparency of LaTrac's online contracts will give state officials, legislators, and, just as importantly, Louisiana's taxpayers an opportunity to look at them, question them, and assist in the same endeavor of our new budgeting process - which is to hold government accountable for how it's spending taxpayer dollars and how those expenditures are actually helping to achieve important outcomes for the state.
"And third, we must bring our procurement process up to speed with the information age. We must use technology to modernize the procurement process to allow for greater flexibility, efficiency, and strategic decision-making, while at the same time giving us the ability to monitor vendor performance to make sure we're getting the results we paid for."
Information on the website covers the state's cooperative agreements, professional, personal, consulting, and social services contracts. Contracts that are active in fiscal year 2010 and beyond are included in the database. Active contracts are contracts that have not yet reached their expiration date at the time the data was uploaded to the Contracts Search.
According to statute, the Office of Contractual Review (OCR) is charged with adopting rules and regulations for the procurement, management, control and disposition of all professional, personal, consulting, and social services contracts required by state agencies. While OCR is in charge of policy regarding the contracting process, it does not have the authority to use the contracting process to set policy or make budgetary decisions of departments. Rather, the contracts received at OCR are reviewed to ensure that they comply with all laws and regulations.
OCR does not review certain contracts that have been specifically delegated to agencies or have been exempted by statute, such as those for the Recovery School District. As such, contracts entered into under certain agencies' delegated authority and that also do not use the state's contract management system will not appear in the LaTrac contracts database. However, all disbursements made under these and all other contracts do appear in the expenditure database of LaTrac.
First launched in November of 2008 to provide citizens easily accessible and updated information on state government expenditures, LaTrac was established by Governor Bobby Jindal in an executive order (BJ 2008-2) on his first full day in office, and authorized by legislation (Act 20) during the 2008 special legislative session on ethics reform. All expenditure information on the site is updated monthly.
Since it was launched, expenditures for all higher education institutions, as well as for the Department of Transportation and Development, have been added to LaTrac. Since these organizations have their own financial systems, a series of interfaces were constructed to allow the agencies to transfer their expenditure data to LaTrac. With these upgrades, Louisiana becomes one of only two states along with Oklahoma to provide detailed expenditure information on higher education.
In March of this year, LaTrac also added a vendor search to the expenditures portal in addition to two other portals, one that offers citizens a searchable state grants database (www.laegrants.la.gov), and another that provides a way to track federal stimulus dollars provided to Louisiana (www.stimulus.la.gov).