Government Transparency

Government transparency made the news twice in November. First, when California Governor Brown shut down California's transparency website, and again last week when Vice President Biden and the Government Accountability and Transparency Board held a meeting that was closed to the press. That board was created in June 2011 by Section 3 of an Executive Order stating "There is hereby established a Government Accountability and Transparency Board (Board) to provide strategic direction for enhancing the transparency of Federal spending and advance efforts to detect and remediate fraud, waste, and abuse in Federal programs."

Critics viewed these actions as ironic because many states have taken steps to make information about state spending, operations, and performance more easily available to citizens in recent years, and the movement to make governments in general more transparent to citizens was prompted in part by the  Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (S. 259) and The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The latter Act resulted in the The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, a "non-partisan, non-political agency" set up to "provide transparency of Recovery-related funds and to detect and prevent fraud, waste, and mismanagement."

The National Association of Chief Information Officers publishes a list of State Accountability, Transparency and Recovery Websites. While many of these sites were set up because of ARRA, a few seem to have morphed into providing a broader perspective about state government. Open Georgia, OpenDoor, Kentucky's Transparency Portal and YourMoney.NJ.Gov are three examples. 

Open Georgia is "a gateway for obtaining information and key documents about how the State of Georgia spends tax dollars and other revenues to provide services to Georgians."

OpenDoor Kentucky "is a bipartisan, multi-agency effort led by Governor Steve Beshear to provide a more transparent, accountable state government, and to allow you the opportunity to find out how your tax dollars are being applied to move our state forward." The YourMoney website highlights "a statewide program to track the operations and performance of each department of state government, with a particular focus on effectiveness, efficiency, timeliness and service quality."

U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), offers a State Transparency Website Scorecard. 

Sunshine Review provides Transparency Grades for the states. Sunshine Review is "a non-profit organization dedicated to state and local government transparency. The Sunshine Review wiki collects and shares transparency information and uses a "10-point Transparency Checklist" to evaluate the content of every state and more than 5,000 local government websites. Sunshine Review collaborates with individuals and organizations throughout America in the cause of an informed citizenry and an accountable government."