An example of the problems involved with the government relying on the private sector to provide access to government information is provided by the Federal Procurement Data System-Next Generation (“FPDS-NG”). This story from last February provides a good background on the issues.
Access Questioned In New Contract Database, by Rebecca Carr, Cox News Service, (02/04/05).
It describes how, for 25 years, the public could purchase CDs of federal contracting data for as little as $60 per quarter but that, in 2003, the General Services Administration paid a contractor $24 million to build a web based system. Problems with the sytem include:
- key search fields are not available
- users are required to register enabling the government to keep track of each user’s research
- businesses and interest groups must pay a one-time fee of up to $2500
- A FOIA request for the data was refused
A recent GAO analysis found additional problems. This article describes the report:
GAO: Improve the data, By Michael Hardy, FCW.com, Oct. 3, 2005.
GAO identified problems with the database being hard to use, out of date, and having performance problems.
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