The Value of Financial Transparency and Open Government
Citizens often write-in and tell us that openness is the “right thing to do” and that transparency “creates accountability”. Yes, there’s that. But the case for financial transparency and openness in government is as practical as it is principled. You don’t have to look very far to see how governments are leveraging financial transparency websites to save time and money.
In 2014, the U.S. PIRG (United States Public Interest Research Group) released a report entitled, “Following the Money 2014”. This report ranks the 50 state governments by their transparency efforts and provides the benefits that governments can expect by creating a financial transparency website. Some findings include:
- In Texas, the comptroller’s office used its transparency website over the first two years it was launched to save $4.8 million from more efficient administration. For example, the office avoided spending $328,000 on a new mail sorter by instead setting up separate post office boxes to receive different types of mail.
- Mississippi estimates that every information request fulfilled by its transparency website rather than by a state employee saves the state between $750 and $1,000 in staff time.
- South Carolina open records requests initially dropped by two-thirds after the creation of its transparency website, reducing staff time and saving an estimated tens of thousands of dollars.
- Once South Dakota’s new transparency website was launched, an emboldened reporter requested additional information on subsidies that led legislators to save about $19 million per year by eliminating redundancies in their economic development program.
- Increased competition, partially resulting from the launch of Florida’s contract database, has allowed the state to re-procure and re-negotiate contracts at lower costs, saving $3.2 million between October 2012 and June 2013.
- Massachusetts’ procurement website has saved the state $3 million by eliminating paper, postage and printing costs associated with information requests by state agencies and paperwork from vendors.
It’s clear that financial transparency and open government practices deliver strong results.
Local Government Software for Financial Transparency
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Category: Government Finance