The State of Illinois has added yet another ethics requirement. Now all communication regarding procurement must be logged and reported on a new web site, the “Procurement Communications Reporting System.” All means all. Contact someone for information to support writing a grant proposal? Call a grocery store for prices for sandwiches? Go to an electronics fair and talk with salespeople? All of these have to be reported. Individually. For example, if ten people meet with a vendor, all ten have to submit reports. The requirement applies equally for purchases, potential or actual, regardless of dollar amount.
Everyone involved wants as little to do with the whole thing as possible. Some quotes from emails and web pages:
- The University is not responsible for the web site and questions should be directed to the Procurement Call Center at 866-455-2897.
- The Procurement Policy Board (PPB) is responsible for publishing the communications reports only. Please do not contact the PPB.
- You may contact the Procurement Call Center at 866-455-2897 with systems questions and/or issues. Please do not call the Procurement Call Center with questions on reporting requirements.
- The communications may contain information or opinions that are not that of the Procurement Policy Board. Communication reports should not be construed as statements of fact or policy that have been adopted by the Procurement Policy Board.
Don’t blame us–don’t even ask us who to blame!
I would like to know if similar requirements are in place in other states. This seems like a giant hassle with very limited return. I could understand doing this for, say, all purchases over $500–but for every purchase? For every inquiry about every purchase? From my place in the cheap seats, this looks like just another hoop I’ll have to jump through–and another set of forms to deal with, and more time spent on paperwork, not actual work. From a vendor’s perspective, I wouldn’t be happy to see my conversations with prospective clients summarized and posted on a web site my competition could see. And I’m wondering how anyone thinks this law can be enforced.
What about interface design? Here’s a screenshot. Implementation leaves much to be desired: the interface looks and functions like a 1998-era web form, clunky in appearance, and shoddy in logic. For example, I entered a phone number in simple ten digit format (3092982212) and it was flagged as an error–without indicating the format to be used. The first time I tried to enter a report, it was rejected because my user profile wasn’t complete. Information I entered during registration wasn’t carried over into my user profile. (Where did it go?) Communication reports can’t be edited once they are submitted. Why not? At the least, amendments should be possible. Humans make mistakes! (That’s all when I was able to use the system. The first two times, it simply bonked.)
I could go on. It’s one thing to ask state employees to keep their work in the public eye. I’m completely on board with that. But there is little to applaud here.