Transparency Florida Act
The "Transparency Florida Act," Chapter 2009-74, Laws of Florida, an act relating to governmental financial information assigns several responsibilities to the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee (Committee). One of these responsibilities is to recommend “a format for collecting and displaying information from state universities, public schools, community colleges, local governmental units, and other governmental entities receiving state appropriations.” The law states the information may include expenditures, revenues, bonding information, and links to entity websites. The Committee was required to develop a schedule for adding information for these entities to the state’s Transparency Florida website by March 1, 2010, and prepare an annual report on the status of the website and recommendations for enhancement. The first annual report was due November 1, 2011.
Committee staff worked to gather information needed to develop the plan with other legislative staff and representatives from the Governor’s Office, the Department of Financial Services, the Department of Education, the Florida Association of Counties, the Florida League of Cities, the Florida Association of Special Districts, the Florida Government Finance Officers Association, the Board of Governors, the Florida College System, the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, representatives of school districts, and individuals in financial and IT related positions at some of the entities.
Of all of the types of entities included within the scope of this project, the state’s school districts have the most similarities in their financial data and reporting requirements. Each district uses the same chart of accounts and currently submits financial information to the Florida Department of Education on a periodic basis, and to the Auditor General’s Office, as requested. For these reasons, the bill’s sponsors agreed that the initial effort should be focused on implementing transparency requirements for the state’s school districts. The Committee approved initial recommendations on February 15, 2010.
During the fall of 2011, the Committee agreed to an alternative approach to provide transparency for local governments. The Committee recommends that the state work in partnership with local governments to provide additional transparency at the local level. Representatives for each type of entity should develop suggested guidelines for the type of financial information and the level of detail that should be included. The state should not, as originally contemplated, be responsible for designing and building a database to collect and display local government financial information. Each local government should be responsible for providing its financial information on its own website. A link should be included on Transparency Florida for each entity that implements the suggested guidelines in order to provide a central access point. The Committee approved the 2011 report on October 17, 2011.
Result of 2010 Legislative Session
During the 2010 Session, the Legislature adopted proviso language [pdf] to implement the Committee's recommendations related to school districts. The Department of Education was required to provide access to existing school district financial-related reports on the department's website and to create a working group to develop recommendations to provide school-level data in greater detail and frequency and publish a report of its findings by December 1, 2010. Links are now available on the Transparency Florida website to school district summary budgets, annual financial reports, audit reports, websites, program cost reports, return on investment/school efficiency measures, financial profiles of school districts, Florida Education Finance Program (FEFP) calculations, and five-year facilities work plans. In addition, the homepage of school district websites includes a link to the Transparency Florida website and the Department of Education submitted the required report [pdf].
Result of 2011 Legislative Session
Two bills were passed during the 2011 session which revise various provisions related to the Transparency Florida Act. These bills, Senate Bill 1204 and Senate Bill 2096, have been approved by the Governor and assigned the following chapter laws:
Chapter 2011-34, Laws of Florida, deletes the Committee's responsibility to oversee and manage the Transparency Florida website.
- Requires the Auditor General to annually notify the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Department of Financial Services of all educational entities and water management districts that have failed to comply with transparency requirements as identified in audit reports. The first notification is due by July 2012.
- Deletes the requirement that entities must receive state appropriation to be included in the Committee's recommendation.
- Requires the Committee to develop a schedule for adding additional information to the Transparency Florida website by November 1, 2012, and annually thereafter. [Note: A progress report, to include recommendations, was due November 1, 2011, pursuant to existing law, s. 215.985(15), F.S.]
- Exempts municipalities and special districts with total annual revenues of less than $10 million from the requirements of Transparency Florida. Deletes reference to the population threshold.
- Requires each water management district to provide monthly financial statements to its board members and post such on its website by September 1, 2011.
- Requires the Chief Financial Officer to provide public access to a state contract management system.
In addition, Senate Bill 1292, now Chapter 2011-44, Laws of Florida, requires the Chief Financial Officer to conduct workshops with state agencies, local governments, and educational entities and develop recommendations for a uniform chart of accounts. The final report is due in January 2014. If a uniform chart of accounts is adopted, the effort and cost to include comparable transactional level data for all levels of government on the Transparency Florida website should be greatly reduced.
- Presentation at the Florida Government Finance Officers Association (FGFOA) Annual Conference; May 2010 [PowerPoint] [pdf]
- Presentation at the Florida School Finance Officers Association, Inc. (FSFOA) Conference; June 2010 [PowerPoint] [pdf]
- Presentation at the Space Coast Chapter of the Florida Government Finance Officers Association (SCFGFOA); June 2010 [PowerPoint] [pdf]
Comments and suggestions regarding this project may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include the words "Transparency Florida" in the subject line.