New Law Forces Removal of Missouri Public Contracts Website
(TNS) – Governor Mike Parson’s administration on Monday shut down access to a website that lets Missourians track who wins potentially lucrative government contracts.
In an announcement posted on an administration office’s procurement website, officials say a new law requires them to remove contract award information from public access for privacy reasons. .
The new law, which was signed by Parson, went into effect on Sunday.
“Effective August 28, 2022, public access to contract documents along with specific contractor contact information will be removed from the MissouriBUYS Contract Board unless the law changes,” the notice reads.
The change means taxpayers looking to figure out how their money is being spent will need to file Sunshine Law requests to get that information. But since all documents will need to be reviewed and then redacted, the office warns of lengthy delays.
“Due to the expected volume of requests resulting from these measures taken to ensure compliance (with the law), the requester may experience a long wait time for the availability of documents,” the notice states.
Rep. Dan Holly, R-Warrensburg, was the original sponsor of House Bill 2400. The contract provisions were added to the Senate in the final days of the spring session by Sen. Sandy Crawford, R-Buffalo.
Crawford could not be reached for comment on Monday. Holly said the notice came as a surprise.
“That was definitely not the intention,” Holly said Monday.
The new law is designed to protect nonprofits from having to disclose their donors to government agencies and allow certain limited liability companies to contribute to applicants.
The so-called Privacy Act also shuts down any records or lists in the possession of a public agency containing the identities of supporters under Missouri’s Open Records Law and court rules.
In approving the legislation, lawmakers said the law would protect the privacy of people wishing to donate to causes they support.
When it was passed by the House and Senate in the spring, however, the Office of Administration, which oversees state procurement, warned the change would require them to review more than 200,000 appeal documents of public tenders and contracts in its online database to secure “personal information”. non-profit organizations is not disclosed.
“The Purchasing Division would be forced to take down this website to avoid exposing a member’s name,” a tax analysis says. “It would also increase the number of Sunshine Law requests for documents currently available online.”
Generally, users can check the website to see who wins contracts for products and programs used by the state. This ranges from the Missouri Department of Transportation buying asphalt to the Department of Health and Senior Services buying personal protective equipment.
Other agencies have also warned against approving House Bill 2400.
The Missouri Department of Revenue, for example, said it could be hampered in determining whether organizations owe state tax if they can’t request personal information.
At the Missouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations, the department could fail to comply with federal requirements if a nonprofit stops submitting quarterly wage reports, putting the Unemployment Insurance program at risk of losing federal funding.
This is not the first time that Parson has attempted to restrict public access to government records.
Earlier this year, he proposed changes to the Sunshine Act that would allow government agencies to withhold records while allowing them to charge more for access.
©2022 the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Distributed by Content Agency Tribune, LLC.