A new state audit suggests Wisconsin might be better off getting rid of a website that was supposed to help the public understand where taxpayer dollars are going. The report from the Legislative Audit Bureau says the Contract Sunshine website, approved by lawmakers in 2006, suffers from a lack of resources, has incomplete or wrong information, and many agencies are failing to report in a timely manner.
Government Accountability Board spokesman Reid Magney says the audit findings confirm issues their staff has identified in the past. The GAB operates the site, which Magney says was only ever designed to list basic information about purchasing contracts worth over $10,000.
Originally, he says the law creating the site did not even require them to report the names of individuals or companies receiving contracts.
The audit did find some improvement from last year, when a report found only 14 of 89 agencies had anything listed on the site. Magney says internal improvements, such as allowing agencies to notify them when they have no qualifying contracts to report, have helped make that happen. He also points to new features that allow agencies to upload information in various formats, rather than entering it all in by hand, as another reason why content has improved.
Still, Magney says the site faces continued problems because the GAB can’t force agencies to comply and it was never designed to list all of the information people seem to expect. He says it has been unfairly compared to sites run by other states that essentially give taxpayers a look into the government checkbook to see where their money is going. Magney says that’s not what Contract Sunshine is supposed to be.
The audit recommends lawmakers consider repealing Contract Sunshine, once a Department of Administration website approved earlier this year is available. That site will list all state operating expenditures over $100. Magney says GAB supports that recommendation.