By December 31st of 2013, the Georgia Government Transparency & Campaign Finance Commission had to solve a thorny problem. The Commission is responsible for making public all of the financial disclosures and campaign contribution forms for both elected officials and individuals running for public office. The Commission fulfills this important public mission by both collecting the filed reports and making them available online in a searchable database.
Several years ago the Commission built an eFiling system that enabled candidates and elected officials to submit their filings on line, in a format that made the information searchable. In 2013, the Legislature passed HB143 which, once in effect, requires local candidates and elected officials to file their reports with their local filing entity and not the Commission. The local filing entities are then required to transmit these reports to the Commission. The Legislature mandated e-filing or e-fax as the method for these reports to be transmitted. The Commission chose to use e-faxing as it appeared to be the easiest and most cost effective method to implement.
This new system had to be in place by the end of 2013. And there was no budget to implement it.
Joel Perkins, CEO of Inserv360, and Andrew Booth, CEO of Jaxified LLC, the primary consultants who manage IT infrastructure and code for the Commission, explained. “We had to figure out a way to set up an eFaxing system to handle the volume of incoming forms. We were also looking for a way to have this information available to the public and get the information into our existing eFiling system, so we would have one, unified, state-wide dataset. And we had no additional budget funding to execute this project.”
Joel and his colleague, Andrew Booth, began by setting up an eFax solution to receive the incoming forms. But without some way to extract the data from the forms into structured output that could be mapped to their eFiling solution, those faxes would only be marginally useful. They would simply sit on a file server and not be searchable by the public.
To make things even more challenging, the incoming forms were varied quite a lot in the way they were filled in. As Joel described, “Some people use Adobe and print on the forms, some people handwrite them. We have even received forms written in crayon.”
The Commission needed a cost effective solution that could integrate with an eFax system, accurately extract data from handwritten forms, and integrate that data into the existing eFiling system. They tried using several OCR systems, and the results were far below the level of accuracy they required, particularly with handwriting. With time running out, the team was becoming deeply concerned.
That’s when Andrew, the IT co-lead on the project, found Captricity. The team ran some tests and found that the structured data the system returned was above 99% accurate, even with handwritten forms. And Captricity fit easily into their workflow. It was simple to set up the integration with the eFax system and straightforward to map the data to the backend database. Using the Captricity API, the data would flow into the correct fields in the eFiling system.
Perkins commented, “I have found the field mapping with Captricity to be very intuitive. Since we already had the database tables built, I just used our existing table name and column name when I mapped the document. So I mirrored what was in our tables. Uploading documents is very, very simple.”
Getting up and running with Captricity has been relatively straightforward. If the team had questions, they reached out to Captricity’s support team. Perkins commented, “The response times for the support team have been phenomenal. I have rarely had anyone at a vendor reach out and make sure we are happy. We couldn’t be more pleased. “
Since January 1st, 2014, the department has received more than 6800 faxes, many with 10 or more pages. Perkins estimates that they will process 40,000 pages per month during the seven annual filing periods in 2014. All of these forms, even those filled out with crayon, now flow from fax to Captricity to the eFiling system in one smooth pass.
Perkins concluded, “Without Captricity, we would have imported the files into a bulk directory and that would have been it. What we are trying to achieve would absolutely, 100% not been possible without Captricity. There is no way to do it. We had no additional budget, no increase in staff and a tight deadline. It would have been a total disaster. Because of you guys, we are going to come out smelling like a rose.”
We couldn’t be more pleased to help an important public institution meet their mission.