Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Thank you for visiting the Pennsylvania Contracts e-Library, a new, online centralized source of comprehensive information about Pennsylvania government goods and services contracts.

This e-Library is hosted by the Pennsylvania Treasury Department as a way of making contract information available to the public, free of charge. This site is designed to provide helpful information about the e-Library, as well as useful tools and tips to assist users in finding information responsive to their inquiries.

The Treasury Department is dedicated to making its information and operations more accessible to all Pennsylvanians.

-When was the new law passed?

On February 14, 2008, Governor Edward G. Rendell signed into law Act 3 of 2008, the Right-to-Know Law (commonly referred to as “RTK”).

-How does the new law change Pennsylvania’s open records practices?

RTK dramatically revised prior Pennsylvania law regulating the rights of the public to obtain information from government about its activities. The new law:

expands the information that must be made available to the public, specifically identifies all of the grounds upon which a government agency might deny a request for information, places the requirement for explanation of the denial of information upon the agency wishing to deny a request, and establishes more specific procedures for persons to seek review of information request denials. In addition, RTK enlarges the number of government agencies, boards, commissions and other bodies that are subject to requirements to make information available to the public.

-Why is Treasury hosting the Pennsylvania Contracts e-Library?

Chapter 17 of RTK directs Treasury to make certain government contract information available for public inspection by posting it on a publicly accessible Web site. It also specifies those government agencies that need to provide contract information for inclusion in the Contracts e-Library, the types of contracts required for submission, and the type of contract information or content that must be provided for public access.

-What information will the Pennsylvania Contracts e-Library contain?

Chapter 17 of RTK requires Commonwealth agencies, legislative agencies and judicial agencies to file with Treasury any contract involving any real, personal or mixed property of any kind or description, and any contract for personal services where the consideration involved in the contract is $5,000 or greater. It is important to note, however, that RTK specifically exempts contracts for services that are protected by a privilege, such as the attorney-client privilege, from the requirement to be filed with Treasury.

Agencies must file contracts meeting the statutory description no later than ten days after the contract is fully executed. The Chapter 17 provisions of RTK establishing the contract filing requirements and operation of the publicly accessible Web site apply to contracts entered into or renewed on or after July 1, 2008.

In addition, agencies must file a summary with Treasury along with each contract they submit. The summary will provide the following information: date of the contract’s execution, amount of the contract, beginning date of the contract, end date of the contract, if applicable, name of the agency entering into the contract, name of all other parties executing the contract, and the subject matter of the contract.

-Are there any exceptions as to what contract information may be obtained from the Contracts e-Library?

RTK identifies approximately 30 exceptions to the general rule it establishes that public records must be made available for inspection and copying. Beyond these specific exemptions, RTK also recognizes that other state and federal laws, as well as regulations and court decisions, may make certain kinds of information not subject to disclosure as public records.

Chapter 17 requires agencies to redact contracts, or remove sensitive or nonpublic information from contracts, in accordance with the exemption provisions of RTK prior to submitting them to Treasury for the publicly accessible Web site. It is important to note, however, that RTK specifically exempts contracts for services that are protected by a privilege, such as the attorney-client privilege, from the requirements to be filed with Treasury. Agencies submitting contracts are specifically responsible under RTK for the accuracy and completeness of the contracts that they file with Treasury.

Those reviewing contract information obtained from the Contracts e-Library may not agree that agencies originally filing the contracts with Treasury have redacted them in accordance with the various exceptions and provisions of RTK. In such instances, members of the public can request copies of contracts under the regular provisions of RTK directly from the contracting agency and evaluate whether they wish to pursue the remedies provided in RTK for the denial of any requested information.

In addition, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court amended Pennsylvania Rule of Judicial Administration No. 509 on June 23, 2008, to provide, among other things, that the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts will make contract information “available on the website of the Unified Judicial System.” The Court acted in reliance upon its authority under the Pennsylvania Constitution and Section 304 of RTK. Accordingly, contracts entered into by judicial agencies will not be available from the Contracts e-Library.

-Why can’t I find contracts dated before to July 1, 2008?

Up until June 30, 2008, the Treasury Department served as the public repository for certain state contracts involving any real, personal or mixed property of any kind and any contract for personal services where the amount of the contracts is $5000 or more in accordance with the requirements of Section 1104 of the Administrative Code. Chapter 17 of Act 3 of 2008 repealed Section 1104 effective July 1, 2008.

For the present, Treasury will continue to retain a limited repository of contracts entered into by state agencies prior to July 1, 2008. If you would like a copy of a particular pre-July 1, 2008, state contract, please send a request under RTK identifying the specific contract to or call the Contracts e-Library staff at 800-252-4700. You may also make a request for such contract to the appropriate contact identified in the Right-to-Know Agency Contact List.

It is important for persons seeking pre-July 1, 2008, state contracts to recognize that many government contracts may not be included in Treasury’s limited repository, either because they were outside the scope of Section 1104 of the Administrative Code, or because the responsible government agency -- for whatever reason -- failed to file it with Treasury. Persons unable to obtain pre-July 1, 2008, contracts that they believe exist are encouraged to make direct requests to the contracting agencies under the regular provisions of RTK.

-How do I obtain copies of contracts that I find in the Contracts e-Library?

Users can obtain copies of contracts they are viewing on the website by employing the “print” functions of their computers. Alternatively, users can request paper copies of contracts from the agencies that executed the contracts in accordance with the provisions of RTK. Users can locate agency contact information from the Right-to-Know Agency Contact List.

-Why can there be a delay in viewing actual contracts in the Contracts e-Library?

RTK was enacted on February 14, 2008, and the Contracts e-Library is the first component of the new law to be implemented. Contract summaries, which have been specifically designed and prepared for viewing in the e-Library, are available for immediate review. Agencies and Treasury are still developing and evaluating procedures to insure that the actual contracts are in electronic formats that are compatible with the e-Library’s software and that redaction practices are effective in protecting sensitive and confidential information from being inadvertently disclosed. For now, Treasury is taking additional steps when requests to view individual contracts are made to insure that these documents are able to be displayed properly on the web site. Once a contract has been made available for viewing in the e-Library in response to a specific request, it will remain available for immediate viewing in response to all subsequent requests for that contract.

-Why does the Web site sometimes seem to delay in responding to commands?

The Contracts e-Library Web site utilizes a dynamic design, which means that it is continually updating itself as agencies supply new contract information to Treasury. That information is made available to the public essentially immediately upon its submission to and review by Treasury, not simply once or twice per day at arbitrarily fixed times. Contract information that was unavailable when a person begins a search may even become available before he or she finishes using the e-Library. The dynamic nature of the e-Library, however, means that brief delays can sometimes be encountered as the site incorporates or searches for recently added information.

-Why do some grants have a different begin date on the summary than what is actually shown on the grant itself?

Some grants may contain begin dates that become retroactively effective only once the grants are fully executed. This practice might allow a grantee to secure matching funds or obtain reimbursement for services or supplies provided after a prior grant has expired and before the next grant is fully executed. In most instances, however, the execution date for a contract precedes its begin date. The e-Library system is designed to facilitate agency filing of conventional contracts, and to prevent agencies from inadvertently submitting summaries whose begin dates are earlier than their execution dates. To address the grants situation, Treasury has requested agencies to use the execution date for both dates in summaries in those instances where begin dates in fact precede execution dates. In these cases, the actual begin dates will be reflected correctly in the e-Library on the grants themselves.

-Why do some summaries have the values stated in dollars when the actual contracts have the values stated in foreign currencies?

Some agencies enter into contracts whose values are specifically stated in terms of a foreign currency. The executed versions of those contracts, with their original terms unchanged, are provided by e-Library in response to public user requests. When agencies prepare summaries for these contracts, they convert their values to dollars (as of the time of filing with Treasury) to facilitate the ability of public users to search for such contracts utilizing e-Library's search tools (which include a field that allows searching by contract dollar amount).