JEFFERSON CITY (Jan. 9) - Snafus in computer software designed by a state vendor are being blamed for the delay in the state's plan to switch thousands of paper records on spending by lobbyists and special interest groups into an electronic format that would be more accessible to the public and easier to read.
The slowdown has the state Ethics Commission, which collects the reports and checks for possible violations, scrambling. Commission staff notified lobbyists and political action committees, or PACs, January 2 that they should file their January 7 reports on paper instead of electronic format, because the software wasn't ready.
The Missouri legslature passed a law last year mandating lobbyists and PACs file their reports in electronic format, rather than the traditional paper form, which can be hundreds of pages long. The lawmakers made electronic filing optional for their own campaign committees.
The state awarded the contract to design the new software to SDR, a company based in California.
"The software wasn't approvable," said Chuck Lamb, executive director of the commission, in a telephone conference call Friday with commission staff and members about the status of the software. "The company acknowledged it had errors. It wasn't ready in spite of everything they had been assuring us."
Lamb told commission members that the staff would continue its daily conversations with the vendors, who assured the staff there were no "insurmountable problems."
"I think we were much better off being conservative and prudent," Lamb said, explaining to the commission members the decision not to send out the software.
"We don't want to put something out in the public that doesn't work," said John Howald, a commission member. "I'm disappointed, obviously, that we don't have it out there today."
SDR has contracts with other states, including Oklahoma, Hawaii and Washington, said Joe Carroll, director of campaign finance for the commission. Commission members said they were not aware of problems in other states with the company's performance.
Commission members said they thought legal action at this point was premature. Lamb said the commission staff will continue to speak almost daily with SDR to check its progress.
The next round of reports are due February 10 for lobbyists and April 7 for PACs and campaigns.