Making sense of how much Los Angeles spends on goods just got a whole lot easier. Controller Ron Galperin unveiled a sleek, more modern look for his office’s open data site, ControlPanel.la. The refreshed site includes precise data on the more than $1 billion in goods the City buys. That information has never been collected and made public in such a detailed way before.
“For the first time ever, every Angeleno can see each item their City buys and how much it cost,” said Galperin.
The procurement data detail the $1.2 billion in goods the City purchased from July 1, 2011 to June 30, 2014 (fiscal years 2012, 2013 and 2014). All of those goods, including vehicles, cell phones, cleaning supplies, uniforms and office supplies, were purchased through the Department of General Services, which acts as the City’s purchasing agent. Galperin said his goal in releasing the data, which includes payments made for 429,437 invoices, is to spur reform.
“I want city managers — and the public too, for that matter — to use this data to help improve City procurement and contracting by encouraging more bidders, driving down the cost of goods and services for the City, and supporting local businesses and jobs,” Galperin said.
The data show payments to 3,369 vendors on 762 contracts for goods in 916 different major spending categories. Only about 15% of payments went to a Los Angeles address.
To spread the word about the new website and the new procurement data, Galperin’s office created “info-cards” — colorful postcards with some of the most interesting items the City buys and their costs — which are being distributed around the City. They’re also available online at controlpanel.la/cards.
Among the items the City buys that are featured in the cards are soccer balls ($8,549), white traffic control gloves ($10,654), mops ($161,628), boots ($21,929), fire hoses ($1,348,566), and even frozen rats ($129,218), which are fed to snakes at the L.A. Zoo.
“The cards are engaging and informative and meant to spark interest in and debate about what the City buys,” said Galperin. “Also, they show that some of the things we buy might initially look outrageous, but they actually make a lot of sense under closer examination. Likewise, we may find things that appear reasonable but actually present problems. Posting this data is an important step in distinguishing between these two scenarios.”
Visitors to ControlPanel.la can search the data by item description, vendor, department, supplier city, dollar amount and many other categories. Controller Galperin is encouraging people to let him know what they find by tweeting their discoveries with the hashtag #LAbuys.
Controller Galperin launched ControlPanel.la soon after taking office in 2013. The website allows the public and city officials to easily access information about the City’s payroll, purchasing, revenue and special funds. The Controller’s office is working with DWP, the Port of L.A. and L.A. World Airports to get those agencies’ procurement information online in detail.