[nfbmi-talk] goes to lara bsbp too
joe harcz Comcast
joeharcz at comcast.net
Thu Sep 12 22:52:05 UTC 2013
Fix inconsistent records access | Livingston Daily | livingstondaily.com
This editorial is reprinted from the Lansing State Journal, where it first appeared.
Unbelievable. In a single word, that sums up responses from two state departments to a Freedom of Information Act request from a reporter seeking to review
state contracts managed by those departments.
Unbelievable because, while the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget maintains a website that provides free access to some 1,200 contracts
with outside vendors valued at $32 billion, officials at two departments that manage their own contracts claimed they are unable to allow a reporter to
review them without charging thousands of dollars for the privilege.
At the Michigan Economic Development Corp., officials said they would need $1,700 to pay for 48 hours of staff time to “run reports, review and examine,
separate and extract information and copy records” for 512 contracts.
At the Michigan Department of Transportation, which previously told Lansing State Journal reporter Kristen Daum that it has $1 billion in construction contracts,
a FOIA official estimated the cost at “into the tens of thousands of dollars” after complaining that the request was “exceptionally broad.” The entire
budget of the department is $3.4 billion. It boggles the mind to wonder how the budget office can make $32 billion in contracts available for public inspection
for free and MDOT cannot do so when it manages a fraction of that amount.
One answer is that MDOT and MEDC do not have centralized procurement offices to manage contracts.
However, it’s hardly an excuse and raises a larger question: Why not? Indeed, why couldn’t they arrange for DTMB to provide that service for them, since
that agency does it so well already? Indeed, some MDOT contracts already are in the DTMB system, but others apparently are spread out at regional offices
across the state and thus not easily collected for review or copying.
>From the taxpayers’ perspective, though, it makes absolutely no sense that one state department can make public records easily accessible, 24 hours a day
and for free, while another needs “into the tens of thousands of dollars” to provide its records.
Equally puzzling is that MDOT missed the deadline to respond to Daum’s written request by five business days. This requirement is spelled out in state law.
The directors of these departments should rethink management of these records. Indeed, Gov. Rick Snyder should insist that the MEDC and MDOT become more
transparent and follow the Michigan FOIA.
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