More than two years after the idea was approved, a website showing how the state spends tax-payers money is still not operational.
The website, called "OpenBook Wisconsin," is supposed to show how the state spends tax dollars, reading like a checkbook or credit card statement.
The project has had multiple expected launch dates, but it has once again been delayed, and the Department of Administration will not say when it will be up and running.
The program was initiated in the 2011 state budget, approved by lawmakers and signed by Gov. Scott Walker. The transparency measure was an idea authored previously by Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.
"It says that eventually we will have a searchable database where every citizen in Wisconsin can see how their money is being spent, open and transparent," Vos said. "If you want to see how much money is spent at DOA or the Department of Corrections on food, ultimately all of those things will be able to happen."
Department of Administration officials said they started working on the project in October 2011, first saying it would be operational by October 2012, then the spring of 2013. When it didn't launch, co-chairs of the Legislative Audit Committee sent a letter to the DOA asking for a progress report.
In a letter obtained by News 3, DOA Secretary Mike Huebsch said the scope of the project was expanded, but there were some technological issues with data.
Ultimately, he told lawmakers, he was "reluctant to provide a precise launch date for OpenBook."
News 3 asked Vos whether that's acceptable to him.
"No, I want to have a date where at least we have some expectations built in, even if it is two or three years away. I want to have a goal to work toward," Vos said. "But otherwise I would rather have it be done right rather than have some sort of artificial deadline like with ObamaCare where the website doesn't work even though they spent hundreds of millions of dollars. I want to do it one time, make sure it's accurate and ultimately give information to citizens."
Joint Audit Committee member Rep. Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee, said he'd like to hear more from the DOA.
"I'm uncomfortable with having this indefinite time period going out into the future where they may or may not get this done whenever, that's not acceptable," Richards said. "It wouldn't be acceptable in business, and it shouldn't be acceptable here."
Audit committee co-chairs Sen. Rob Cowles, R-Green Bay, and Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Powers Lake, were unavailable for interviews with News 3 Wednesday. Kerkman said only that the committee was continuing to monitor progress of the site.
News 3 asked the DOA for an update on the project timeline. In a statement a spokeswoman said, "We will be sure to make an announcement when we launch the site. All of the work is being done in-house and we continue to actively work on the project."
Documents provided to the Legislature peg the cost of this at just more than $150,000, despite the years of work on the project.