A transparency website is meant to provide the public easy access to information, but it isn’t always updated quickly.

By Courtney Teague

Honolulu Civil Beat — May 8, 2018

Original story: http://www.civilbeat.org/2018/05/hawaii-gets-an-f-for-its-transparency-on-state-government-spending/

 

A measure that would have required the state to publish the formulas used to calculate the financial impact of proposed bills died in the Legislature in the recently adjourned session.

That probably came as no surprise to public interest researchers who say the state government needs to be more open about its spending practices.

Hawaii is among the worst in the nation when it comes to being transparent about the way state government spends its money, according to a new study of state transparency sites.

The U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund gave the Aloha State an F for transparency, two grades lower than the C it received in the last report two years ago. California, Alaska and Wyoming were the only states to score lower.

That’s because the state’s transparency webpage hasn’t updated its spending information since 2016, said Michelle Sirka, tax and budget campaigns director for the PIRG fund. The same is true for budget information on the webpage.

The report also found the webpage was glitch-prone and lacked a multi-tiered search function.

Gov. David Ige’s administration has made strides in improving government accessibility online — such as modernizing the state payroll and tax systems — but there’s more to be done, said Christine Mai‘i Sakuda, head of the nonprofit Transform Hawaii Government. The agency advocates for a more open and transparent government through technology.

Sakuda wondered whether the state has set a plan and priorities for updating information on its website. It’s not just the transparency webpage that contains outdated information, she said.

“Clearly the data not being up is a reflection of no one’s eyes are on that and thought that it was important enough to update, which is unfortunate and not acceptable,” Sakuda said.

Brian Black, head of the Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest, presented testimony on the issue at a meeting before the state’s Information Technology Steering Committee last week. Part of the committee’s role includes developing plans for and assessing state IT systems.

Black’s testimony, drafted after meeting with groups who support accessible data, suggested the state prioritize posting financial, tax and procurement data, plus certain data from the departments of Health, Commerce and Consumer Affairs, and Land and Natural Resources.

He recommended the state educate the public on available data and ensure it’s posted in a timely manner and machine readable format, meaning the file can be easily opened on a computer.

“Providing a central site for electronic data allows the public to find information efficiently,” Black wrote.

The state plans to follow those priorities when revamping its website, said Todd Nacapuy, head of the Office of Enterprise Technology Services, which oversees the transparency webpage.

The spending data won’t be posted to the transparency site in the immediate future, but Laurel Johnston, head of the Department of Budget and Finance, noted it is already posted to her department’s webpage.

“The data is there, it’s just maybe not the way that PIRG or others might want it so they can compare by state,” Johnston said.

The vendor that the Office of Enterprise Technology Services currently uses to host its data, Socrata, is expensive, Nacapuy said. A contract with a new vendor should be finalized within the next month and a half — that’s when the state will start work on posting the latest spending data to its transparency page.

U.S. PIRG wasn’t impressed with Hawaii’s site, but Nacapuy pointed to ETS’s Department Dashboard, which launched this year.

It breaks down a timeline of IT projects by state department and shows the cost, whether they’re on track and its project managers. The dashboard ensures accountability of the state’s IT projects, he said, adding that it’s the first such site in the nation.

Senate Bill 2257 would have required the Department of Taxation to make public the formulas used to calculate the financial impact of a bill. It died two weeks ago in conference committee, where lawmakers from both chambers attempt to work out differences.

The Tax Foundation of Hawaii wrote in testimony that the availability of information about those estimates was “spotty at best.”

“Having the information would be a great step toward openness and transparency in important legislative decisions,” the group wrote.

The Hawaii Community Foundation’s Omidyar Ohana Fund supports Transform Hawaii Government. Pierre Omidyar is the CEO and publisher of Civil Beat.

Additionally, The Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest is an independent organization created with funding from Pierre Omidyar. Civil Beat Editor Patti Epler sits on its board of directors.

Featured in THG’s January newsletter, the Hawaii Department Dashboard now has a new, more user-friendly look. A first of its kind in the nation, the dashboard tracks more than 400 IT projects across State of Hawaii departments and agencies that account for nearly half a billion dollars in annual IT spend, according to the Office of Enterprise Technology Services.

 

The dashboard is accessible to the public and can be found at The Hawaii Department Dashboard or by visiting ets.hawaii.gov and scrolling to the bottom of the webpage.

Facebook is still under fire for its failure to safeguard user information from unethical practices of third-party app developers.

 

What happened?

Mark Zuckerberg tesimony congress - Washington Post

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified in the U.S. Congress on April 10, 2018. Screenshot from Washington Post.

 

In a nutshell, Facebook had knowingly allowed a third-party developer to improperly collect information and exploit the data of 87 million users to sway voter opinion on political campaigns without their permission.

 

Academic researcher Aleksandr Kogan built a third-party app called thisismydigitallife in 2014 for the sole purpose of collecting data from millions of users through personality quizzes. This was done under the guise that the harvested information would be used for academic purposes. Thisismydigitallife went viral and its users inadvertently gave the API permission to access their profiles, as well as their friends’ information. (At the time, Facebook rules allowed third-party apps to do this. However, the company put a stop to collecting friends’ information the same year.)

 

Kogan later shared this private information to Cambridge Analytica which mined the people’s data to create user psychography profiles and used it for electionioneering purposes such as Britain’s Brexit campaign and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016.

 

How does this affect you?

Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook’s Hard Questions Blog, March 21, 2018 https://newsroom.fb.com/

 

Facebook had notified users who’s data may have been shared when they used the thisismydigitallife app. In case you missed the notification, read NPR’s: How to Check If Your Facebook Data Was Used By Cambridge Analytica and click here to check your status. You must be logged onto your Facebook profile to see results.

 

To see which State of Hawaii government agencies currently use Facebook and other social media platforms to engage constituents, visit this helpful link.

9th Annual STEM Conference group shot. Photo courtesy of Maui Economic Development Board.

 

Transform Hawaii Government proudly supported the 9th Annual Hawaii STEM Conference — Hawaii’s largest Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) event for students. The event was presented by STEMworks™ earlier this month.

 

More than 1,000 students, teachers, and innovators gathered for the two-day regional conference at Oahu’s Hawaii Convention Center on April 10 and 11, 2018.

 

“The Hawaii STEM Conference is more than just a high-tech conference for awesome nerds and geeks,” said Leinaala Kealoha, a teacher at Kauai High School. “I was enlightened to the paradigm shift necessary for our youth to thrive in this ever-changing society; moreover, regardless of their career path, both students and teachers can gain valuable and indispensable skills by indulging in STEM. It’s not just an elective or hobby, it’s a way of life.”

 

The annual STEM conference was put together by STEMworks™, a program of the Maui Economic Development Board’s (MEDB) Women in Technology initiative. STEMworks™ is a service-learning initiative dedicated to bolster interest and motivate K-12 students and underrepresented groups in pursuing STEM careers.

 

“THG gladly supports the mission of the conference in making STEM education into an enjoyable, practical, and fun endeavor. Hawaii’s government IT transformation depends on what we can do today to streamline backend operations for better services. Securing our state government’s technological future also depends on nurturing the interest of youth in tech so they can leverage opportunities to stay in the islands when they enter the workforce” said Christine Sakuda, executive director of Transform Hawaii Government.

 

The 9th Annual STEM Conference focused on engaging students from across the state and building their tech skills, invigorating interest in the field via hands-on activities, and in connecting with industry professionals.

 

Photo courtesy of Maui Economic Development Board.

Students create technology by building a Piper Computer. Pictured left to right: Shairene Bayle (Maui Waena Intermediate, 6th grade), Jacelyn Yun (Maui Waena Intermediate, 6th grade), Seamus Talosa (Farrington High, 11th grade), and Sienna Rocoma (Maui Waena Intermediate, 6th grade). Photo courtesy of Maui Economic Development Board.

Split between two days, the conference featured a robust agenda of more than 61 hands-on student workshops, multiple software competitions, a formal awards banquet recognizing STEM service learning projects, a 5X5 speed networking session with industry professionals, as well as 25 professional development sessions for teachers.

 

“It’s always rewarding to see and hear how this conference has touched lives by empowering our youth. Whether they choose to pursue a STEM career or another field, experiences during this conference will encourage them to be self-directed learners, to be resilient, to stay current and be adaptive to change. Our heartfelt appreciation goes out to all those who made this event possible – our event’s sponsors, industrial professionals, participating students and teachers, volunteers and our dedicated MEDB staff,” said Leslie Wilkins, MEDB President and CEO.

 

In addition to Transform Hawaii Government, the 9th Annual Hawaii Stem Conference was sponsored by Creative Industries Hawaii/DBEDT, Kaiser Permanente, Bank of Hawaii Foundation – Mike Lyons Maui Community Award, Microsoft, Verizon, Hawaii Energy/Blue Planet Foundation, Hawaiian Electric Company, SketchUp, Hawaii Geographic Information Coordinating Council, Hawaii Association of Independent Schools, Public Schools of Hawaii Foundation, USS Bowfin Submarine/Pacific Fleet Submarine Memorial Association, Sempra Renewables and Engie.

 

This year, the State of Hawaii’s four-decade-old mainframe payroll system will transition to a modern payroll software and processes utilizing PeopleSoft. Involving more than 70,000 payments each payroll cycle, the modernization project will provide employees with updated toolsets and training.

According to the Department of Accounting and General Services, the new system will enable payroll and human resources staff to process information using up-to-date technology, resulting in less manual processing. Increased efficiency will provide more time for employees to work on other priority tasks such as analytical activities. When fully implemented, employee self-service capabilities will include:

 

  • Setting up direct deposit distributions
  • Managing federal and state tax withholding allowances
  • Updating payroll mailing addresses and emergency contacts
  • Viewing and printing pay statements and W-2 tax forms

 

“Payroll and human resources staff have been working closely with project staff the last few months to test the system and learn the new processes,” said Chief Information Officer Todd Nacapuy, whose office is assisting DAGS with the modernization effort.

 

The rollout of the system is being scheduled in three phases:

  1. April/May – Department of Human Resources Development and the Department of Accounting and General Services and its attached agency
  2. July/August – Remaining jurisdictions, departments, and agencies statewide except for Department of Education and the University of Hawaii system
  3. October/November – Department of Education and the University of Hawaii system

THG will monitor the progress of the project and keep members apprised. Additional information is available on the project website and will be provided in future editions of THG’s newsletter.

Concurrent resolution demands a State IT Strategic Plan

 

On April 16, Chair Glenn Wakai (right), from the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Tourism, and Technology, receives testimony on HCR 94, from THG Executive Director Christine Sakuda (second from left).

 

After receiving a strong showing of support from Transform Hawaii Government (THG) and other advocates, the Hawaii Legislature has adopted a concurrent resolution requesting the development of an information technology (IT) strategic plan for Hawaii state government. THG’s Board of Directors, Leadership Committee, and coalition members were among those who submitted testimony in support of the resolution.

 

HCR 94 asks the state’s IT Steering Committee to submit the strategic plan, along with recommendations and any necessary supporting legislation, to the Legislature no later than 20 days prior to the convening of next session. Development of the plan provides the opportunity to acknowledge and document progress achieved thus far, as well as chart the course to further improve the delivery of programs and services to citizens, businesses and those working in state government.

 

“Our state’s data remains decentralized and inaccessible, limiting the opportunities for integration and achieving our state goals,” said THG Executive Director Christine Sakuda. “I therefore strongly support this resolution requesting that the IT Steering Committee take an active role in developing the state IT strategic plan, including consideration of model legislation from other states and industry best practices to establish a state data strategy.”

 

As featured in past THG newsletters, while progress has been made since the Legislature established the position of the state Chief Information Officer (CIO), a long-term IT strategic plan has yet to be adopted. With hundreds of millions of dollars invested in modernizing and maintaining the state’s multitude of IT systems each year, such a plan is necessary to:

  • Improve the delivery of programs and services to citizens, businesses and within state government offices;
  • Maximize our state’s potential for greater accountability, efficiency, and transparency in the use of taxpayer dollars;
  • Best secure protected data and critical infrastructure; and
  • Sufficiently empower our state’s workforce to meet the demands of an increasingly technology-dependent workplace.

 

By naming the IT Steering Committee, the resolution recognizes that advising the state chief information officer (CIO) in developing the IT standards and policies, including but not limited to assisting the CIO in developing and implementing the state IT strategic plans, is already within the committee’s statutorily mandated duties.

 

The IT Steering Committee is scheduled to meet in May, when it is anticipated members will determine the next steps to fulfill the Legislature’s request.  As Sakuda is a member of the IT Steering Committee, THG members will be provided first-hand insight into the committee’s progress. Watch for future updates in upcoming editions of THG’s monthly newsletter.

 

Other Priority Legislation

This session, THG launched its Priority Legislation webpage to serve as a resource to coalition members and like-minded individuals who wish to advocate for 2018 legislation that promotes an open, transparent and responsive Hawaii government. The status of measures is updated regularly on the page, and many THG coalition members responded to alert messages with testimony when bills were scheduled for hearings.

 

One such bill is House Bill 2395 SD1, Relating to Electronic Filing, which has been passed by the Legislature and transmitted to the governor. If enacted, HB 2395 will authorize the Hawaii Department of Taxation to require certain taxpayers to file returns electronically, subject to exceptions for reasonable cause as provided by administrative rules. While some business users may be reluctant to go paperless, such progress is inevitable as electronic filing becomes the norm at both the state and federal levels. Strong encouragement to use the new electronic functionality of the new system is critical to maximize positive return on investment and realize the cost-efficiencies associated with filing electronically the state and businesses alike will enjoy over the long-term.

 

Adjournment of the Legislature (a.k.a., “Sine Die”) is Thursday, May 3, 2018. The governor has until July 10 to veto a bill, sign it into law, or allow it become law without his signature.

HCR 94 hearing

Inefficiency translates to lost time, dollars and increased frustration for small businesses. That includes the time and effort it takes to extract data sets from government agencies.

State legislators appear to agree that it is time for the state to formally adopted a statewide strategic plan for information technology projects, especially when hundreds of millions of dollars are invested in modernizing and maintaining the state’s multitude of IT systems each year.

HCR 94 and SCR 42 call for the development of a state IT strategic plan to include data goals and objectives. THG strongly supports these resolutions and agrees that the commitment of state leadership to strategic information technology transformation over the long term is essential to the government’s ability to successfully leverage technology toward improving services for Hawaii’s residents and businesses.

HCR 94 was recently heard by the House Committee on Labor and Public Employment, which received strong support from the community and no opposition.  The resolution passed unanimously and moved on to the finance committee where it awaits a hearing date.

“… many states and major municipalities across the United States have adopted open data driven policies that require government agencies to collect and publish data, as well as promote data collection and sharing in the private sector, in recognition that access to empirical data is critical to providing decision makers with the information they need to make informed decisions in the interest of citizens …” —  HCR 94 / SCR 42

While progress has been made since the Legislature established the position of the State of Hawai‘i Chief Information Officer in 2010, a long-term IT strategic plan has yet to be adopted. Such a plan is necessary to:

  • Improve the delivery of programs and services to citizens, businesses and within state government;
  • Maximize our state’s potential for greater accountability, efficiency, and transparency in the use of taxpayer dollars;
  • Best secure protected data and critical infrastructure; and
  • Sufficiently empower our state’s workforce to meet the demands of an increasingly technology-dependent workplace.

Further, as the resolutions recognize, many states across the nation have adopted open data-driven policies that require agencies to collect, maintain and make accessible, where permissible, a variety of data and information to ensure decision-makers have the information they need to make informed decisions in shaping the future of our state. However, our state’s data remains decentralized, limiting the opportunities for integration and achieving data goals.

THG urges coalition members and other like-minded individuals to express their support of these measures as they move forward. Helpful tips on submitting your own testimony are available are THG’s 2018 Priority Legislation webpage.

REGISTRATION

To begin the registration process, go to the Legislature webpage: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/login/login.aspx

On the web page you will see three boxes:

Top box: Sign in to the Hawaii Legislature

Second box down: Help!

Third box down: NOTE: An account is required in order to submit online testimony.

In the third box, the first paragraph reads:

Creating an account for the Legislature’s website is quick and simple!

If you have not created an account, please click here to register.

Click on the “here” link and you will be taken to a page to enter the required registration info. In the organization blank, if you are not representing an organization, you can skip that box. When you finish that process and submit the information, you will be sent an email containing a link you must click on to complete the registration process.

 

WEBSITE TESTIMONY SUBMITTAL

Submitting testimony online

Submit Testimony screenshotAfter completing the registration process, return to the login page and click on the icon with the envelope, labeled “submit testimony.”

When you enter the bill number (e.g., HB134) and hit the enter key, the following categories will appear

 

Committee      Room   Date/Time

along with a link labeled View Notice (you don’t need to click this, unless you want to email testimony)

Scroll down past the Committee, Room, Date/Time section to the “Enter Information” section and click on the appropriate buttons, then type your testimony into the Additional Comments box.

 

EMAILING TESTIMONY

If you decide to email your testimony, click on the View Notice link, look for the committee hearing the bill and use the email address listed (e.g., WAMtestimony@capitol.hawaii.gov). In your email, be sure to include the following:

  • Testifier’s name and, if affiliated with an organization, position/title and organization;
  • The Committee(s) to which the comments are directed;
  • The date, time and location of the hearing (e.g. conference room number); and
  • Bill or Resolution (Measure) number.

Continuing tax system modernization must remain atop state’s priority list.

By Christine Sakuda

Honolulu Civil Beat (Community Voice) – Feb. 22, 2018
Original Story: http://www.civilbeat.org/2018/02/progress-made-on-improving-hawaiis-revenue-engine/

Amid news stories about federal government shutdowns and false missile alerts, one the state’s most ambitious modernization initiatives, Tax System Modernization, has not been grabbing headlines. But it is proceeding and, apparently, succeeding, despite its low profile of late.

At the end of March, the door will close on options to file business taxes via the state’s legacy (i.e., old) tax-filing site. But that’s a good thing, since that means those services will have been successfully moved to the state’s new tax filing portal, Hawaii Tax Online.

Over the course of five rollouts, each making new functions available, the majority of tax services have been migrated to Hawaii Tax Online. “Rollout 3” was completed last summer and included services for Corporate Income, Franchise, Public Service Company and Withholding filers. This followed the previous two rollouts that included General Excise, Transient Accommodation and other types of taxes.

Electronic Filing ‘Inevitable’

The flicking of the off-switch for those services on the old site — with little fanfare or controversy — will provide evidence the rollout succeeded.

In fact, thanks to the newly launched electronic filing capability for business filers, the Hawaii Legislature can consider bills like Senate Bill 2822, which authorizes the Department of Taxation to require certain taxpayers to file digital returns exclusively, subject to a few exceptions.

Yes, some business users may be reluctant to go paperless, but such progress is inevitable as electronic filing becomes the norm at both the state and federal levels. In order for this to be successful, the Tax Department has acknowledged it also needs to beef up its help-desk support to prepare for the influx in calls. After all, customer interaction with new technology can be embraced with a little bit of handholding.

Legislators should be applauded for exploring all opportunities to nudge taxpayers toward using the capabilities of the new system. In addition to maximizing the state’s return on investment, business filers over the long-term will realize the cost-efficiencies associated with filing electronically. SB 2822 provides a mechanism for the tax department to encourage those with the best reasons to file electronically to be first users of the system and demonstrate its effectiveness.

Keep Up Momentum

With similar functionality scheduled to “go live” for individual filers during the next rollout, the Tax System Modernization must remain a state priority. Whether the project continues now depends on the approval of the Legislature.

In the governor’s supplemental budget proposal submitted in December, the administration is asking for an additional $16.5 million in capital improvement project funds to cover the completion of the functional requirements scheduled for next fiscal year (FY19) as well as the warranty period (FY20). Transform Hawaii Government supports this request to keep the momentum of the project moving on its current schedule.

The project remains a worthy investment. A modern, effective and efficient state tax collection system is what Hawaii taxpayers — all taxpayers — expect and deserve.

But it is critical that legitimate concerns raised by lawmakers about a range of problems be addressed; otherwise, the Legislature would be justified in withholding the funds as it did during the last legislative session. Going into the 2018 session, the administration must take steps to provide additional reassurance that the project is delivering functionality as intended.

‘Unprecedented Action’

Providing the state chief information officer with greater oversight of technological aspects of the project in July 2017 was a good first step.The CIO took the unprecedented action of publicly posting the project’s Independent Validation and Verification reports, which are quarterly progress assessments by a third-party contractor.

Many of the issues involving the former IVV vendor came to light and were addressed as a result of that direct involvement by the state’s top technology official and his commitment to full transparency. That IVV contract ended as a result.

With greater transparency established and a new tax director in place, the Department of Taxation is now in a position to take back the lead role. I am told that the tax department is working with the CIO’s office to procure a new IVV vendor, which will ensure the continuation of these periodic third-party assessments.

While the project represents an ambitious initiative, it also stands out as one of the most necessary. The project is making progress in giving the state a more robust revenue engine and the technology needed to support it. Ultimately, it is a worthy investment, as a modern tax collection system delivers what Hawaii taxpayers expect and deserve.

Such thoughts are sure to be top of mind as taxpayers file this season.

Transform Hawaii Government was established to promote an open, transparent, and responsive Hawaii government. The nonprofit organization advocates improving government business practices through technology to ensure government employees, residents and businesses have convenient and secure access to reliable information and data on demand.

Our goal is to have government services streamlined, integrated and delivered in ways that exceed the expectations of the public and the needs of Hawaii businesses. For more information, visit transformhawaiigov.org.

Take a look at THG's Priority Legislation Page

As the 2018 legislative session gets into full swing, several measures are moving forward with the potential to promote an open, transparent and responsive state government. Transform Hawaii Government (THG) recently launched a new Priority Legislation section on its website as a resource to THG members and like-minded individuals who wish to participate in transforming government

Each bill and resolution on the site aligns with THG’s mission to advocate for and support efforts to improve government business practices through technology. Measures are arranged under several categories: Open Government, Citizen Engagement, Modernizing IT Infrastructure, Business Process Re-engineering, and IT Governance.

Featured bills include Senate Bill 2879, Relating to Education, which requires the state Office of Enterprise Technology Services, in collaboration with the Department of Education (DOE), to establish a working group to study the DOE’s IT infrastructure, operations and services with the intent of increased integration. The latest draft of the bill names a representative from THG to be appointed to a working group that would also consist of the chief information officers of the State of Hawaii, DOE and University of Hawaii, as well as the superintendent of education and DOE chief academic officer, or their designees.

THG supports this bill because it encourages collaboration between ETS and DOE to identify opportunities to reduce or eliminate redundant services and infrastructure. The measure, if enacted, would also facilitate strategic decision-making, with regard to technological platforms, policies and standards, that may further the state’s goals and augment statutorily mandated duties in the areas of cyber security and open data, as outlined in sections 27-43.5 and 27-44, Hawaii Revised Statutes.

Other featured bills include House Bill 2225, Relating to Information Technology, which provides the state chief information officer with full discretion to require independent verification and validation of state IT projects if certain criteria are met. The enhanced authority will enhance statewide IT governance processes, which were launched by the CIO in 2015 and strengthened over subsequent years.

In addition, House Bill 2080 and its companion measure, Senate Bill 2902, Relating to Technology Development, appropriate funds for grants to participants in software application challenges enabling the proofs of concept created during the challenges to be developed into prototypes suitable for deployment in local and state government. These challenges, such as the Hawaii Annual Code Challenge and the Agricultural code challenge (also known as the AGathon), engage the technology development community and state government agencies in collaborative efforts to develop innovative solutions to an array of issues facing our state. Application challenges are intended to generate proofs of concepts but not complete or even prototype products. The additional resources proposed in the bill will help bring to fruition these proofs of concepts and their potential benefits.

Bookmark the Priority Legislation webpage and check back often for the latest status of bills and resolutions, as well as opportunities to make your voice heard.