Gov. Edwards is committed to expanding and improving citizen access to Louisiana’s governmental operations.

Louisiana ranks seventh nationally in how well states provide online access to information about government spending, according to the 2016 U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s report. The ranking recognized the state’s public site, Louisiana Transparency and Accountability portal, or La Trac. A new report will be issued this year.

La Trac provides access to - among other things - expenditures, contract information, economic incentives and performance indicators, with much of the data available by fiscal year, agency, department and accounting category. Some of the data is updated monthly.

In Ohio, a system known as OAKS serves as the single comprehensive financial and human resources system for the state. Information then flows from OAKS to Ohio Checkbook. LaGov is intended to serve the same function in Louisiana as OAKS does in Ohio. However, under the previous administration, the effort to move all agencies onto LaGov was halted, leaving only six state agencies fully managed by LaGov.

To date, the state has invested about $100 million, and another $26 million will be required to bring the remaining agencies on board to LaGov. This conversion would be necessary to fully support any online transparency system, including La Trac and/or an Ohio Checkbook equivalent. Until added, detailed transactional information will not be available for those agencies. If this is funded, the conversion will be complete by July 2021. However, during this conversion period OTS will continue to enhance La Trac functionality by providing detailed transaction information for those agencies as they are added to LaGov and by improving search and data analysis capabilities similar to the Ohio Checkbook platform. The first of these enhancements which have been in ongoing development will be rolled out this spring. This functionality will be added in real time as each agency is converted to LaGov, and is being performed by OTS staff at no additional cost to the state.

Comparison to Ohio Checkbook

Under La Trac, we retain all control and access over the portal and all associated data. However, under the Ohio Checkbook or other Software-as-a-Service models, there is a high perpetual annual cost. And in the event the service is discontinued, we would have to find another provider or build something ourselves, in order to continue providing the expected level of transparency.

Ohio Checkbook costs their taxpayers $800,000 annually, a number that increases with the addition of local government data.

Challenges

The prerequisite for the capability of any product to provide true transparency into governmental activities is the access to comprehensive detailed data. The function of each of these systems is to transform raw data into information that is meaningful to citizens and then provide intuitive access to this information for review and analysis.

Conclusion

Once the State of Louisiana completes the conversion of all state agencies to the LaGov system, the public will have expanded access to how taxpayer funds are used from the Executive Branch. (Higher education does not use LaGov; rather, the systems send monthly or annual expenditure reports that are then integrated into La Trac.) However, the Legislature and Judiciary do not have a reporting system similar to La Trac, therefore, they would be required to join a similar program. It is important to note though that the Ohio Checkbook model would face these same limitations.