Proposal underscores the ‘public’ in public records

/ Colorado News Agency
Feb 10th, 2011

Carroll procurementA legislative panel endorsed a measure today that aims to make state government a bit more transparent, especially when it spends public dollars on private providers of goods and services.

Right now, government contracts with the private sector are theoretically subject to public scrutiny but, says Aurora Democratic Sen. Morgan Carroll, not always accessible in practice. Carroll wants to ensure that the public receives the information undeterred by roadblocks along the way.

Senate Bill 25, sponsored by Carroll and Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, in the House has been dubbed by its sponsors “the Colorado Taxpayers Empowerment Act of 2011.”  Under current law, contracts that the state enters into for procurement—acquiring goods or services from vendors—are subject to open-record requests under the “Colorado Open Records Act” or CORA.  SB 25 would explicitly include the CORA requirement in the signed contract language between the state and the vendor.

Carroll says the measure is needed because the open-records process is often challenged in terms of what information is subject to public scrutiny.

“It’s been hit and miss,” said Carroll. “In this day and age no state contract should be out there without transparency.”

The bill passed the Senate Finance Committee with an approving nod from all but one panel member, Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, although not without a revision by Carroll.

The measure originally would have required vendors to supply state departments, and members of the legislative body, access to vendor records relating to the costs or performance measures of their contracts with the state.  Carroll agreed to scale back the measure to just the statement about CORA in the contract to smooth over objections by some in the business community.

Brophy said the amended version of the bill differed little from the status quo although he said he was not too keen on the bill anyway because it pried too deeply into the affairs of private business.  Transparency, said Brophy should reside with government, not private business.

“It (the amended bill) no longer does anything. It puts in a boilerplate clause in a contract saying that the law has to be followed,” said Brophy. “We don’t need to be opening up the books on private businesses, looking at profit margins. We need to be looking at the contracts that the government enters into with an eye toward efficiency.”

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