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New website tracks state expenditures

By Chelyen Davis

So far this fiscal year, the state government has spent $2.49 million in Spotsylvania County, for anything from school trophies to van rentals to uniforms, heating and air conditioning repairs, and construction equipment.

A new state website will show you all those expenditures, and similar ones from every locality in Virginia.

It can also show businesses how to bid on state contracts and find out how much state agencies are paying for whatever the business sells, be it printer toner or cleaning services.

The state’s “eVA” program —its electronic procurement system— has just launched the new Web page (http://www.eva.virginia.gov/evacharts) intended to increase transparency in how it spends $4 billion to $5 billion in procurement money each year.

It doesn’t look at the types of spending one typically thinks of in the state budget—to build roads, run schools or provide health programs.

Instead, procurement is the side of government spending you often don’t see—the printer cartridges used in state offices, the cost for sandblasting equipment, the cost of a repairman when a government office roof leaks, the uniforms worn by correctional officers.

The eVA program was created more than a decade ago to track those expenditures online, helping businesses get into state contracting and encouraging state agencies to be more efficient.

But the data could be unwieldy if you weren’t familiar with it. The new Web page being launched now has charts to localize the data, offering a window into where money is spent.

It shows a map of the state—you can hover over any locality to see the total spent on procurement there, and then click on it to get more information. The website will list each purchase from vendors in the localities, and will soon link to eVA’s existing database that has information on every single purchase made by the state and local governments—including the item, the cost, the person purchasing it, the vendor selling it, and so on.

The new page also shows state procurement spending by area. A chart shows spending in areas like transportation ($1.07 billion), education ($863 million), public safety, natural resources and so on; viewers can click on those portions of the chart to get details.

Bob Sievert, state director of the e–procurement bureau, said the goal of the new website is twofold—it will increase transparency in how the state spends its money, and also help companies do business with the state.

The new site includes information on new contracts the state has put out to bid—businesses have only to click on them to find out how to bid on them. Those contracts include things like delivering stone for Augusta County, or providing professional environmental engineering.

Sievert said eVA has been working to increase transparency in spending for years, but the new site provides easily accessible data for people who might just be curious how much is getting spent in their hometown. It’s like a sampler—those who are more interested can go deeper into the data elsewhere on the eVA site.

Sievert said companies can use all that data to direct them if they want to start doing business with the state.

He used print toner as an example. On eVA’s site, a business that sells toner cartridges could do a search for toner, and get a list of which state (and some local) government agencies have bought toner recently. That list shows who the toner was bought from, how much was paid for it, and includes information on who bought it and how to contact them.

For existing state vendors, that can attract new business. Sievert said a Wytheville company was on the state’s list of vendors, but when it became easier to search for vendors, the Wytheville company started getting orders from around the state, because it had lower prices.

“I think you can get a feel for the potential power of this if you’re a business, wanting to go in and build those potential opportunities for yourself,” Sievert said.

Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028

cdavis@freelancestar.com

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Permalink: http://news.fredericksburg.com/business/2012/12/19/new-website-tracks-state-expenditures/

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