0 Comments · Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Ohio scored fifth-worst in a nationwide
government transparency survey conducted by a national consumer group
focused on investigating and advocating for American citizens against
powerful interest groups.
by Anthony Skeens
Posted In: News
at 04:00 PM | Permalink
Options for tracking government spending rank higher than only four states in the U.S.
Ohio scored fifth-worst in a nationwide government
transparency survey conducted by a national consumer group focused on
investigating and advocating for American citizens against powerful
The group gave Ohio a “D-” ranking after its government
spending transparency website earned 51 points out of 100 in U.S. Public Interest Research Group's
fifth annual “Following the Money” report.
“Ohio’s been kind of sinking through the ratings year by
year,” says Phineas Baxendall, a U.S. PIRG senior policy analyst and
co-author of the report released on Tuesday. “It used to do much better,
which doesn’t mean they’re dismantling their transparency systems. It
just means our standards get tougher each year and they’re more staying
in place while other states are improving.”
Ohio’s the only state in the nation that doesn’t offer
certain customizable search options including bid award recipients,
keywords, agency and bulk download searches. Ohio’s poor score follows
three years of ranking in the bottom half of the study.
Researchers look for transparency websites to be comprehensive, one-stop and offer simple search formats.
The nation as a whole is moving toward a more transparent
approach to documenting government spending. Since PIRG began the study,
all six categories it uses to compile rankings have shown an increase
in states performing specific duties. The largest leaps in the past five
years involve showing how a project benefits from taxpayer subsidies,
which has seen an increase from two to 33 states, and how tax money is
spent with an increase from eight to 44 states. All states now have
ledger listings for transactions of any government spending on a
website, compared to only 32 five years ago.
Ohio’s score doesn’t reflect Cincinnati’s efforts to be
transparent. In a 2013 study in transparency of the 30 largest cities in
America, Cincinnati scored a “B+” for providing ledger listings for
spending information, allowing Cincinnatians to view where money is
spent, specific recipients of tax subsidies and the existence of a
service request center allowing residents to notify officials about
quality of life issues.
Suggestions for improvement included making
checkbook-level spending information searchable by the vendor who
received the money and developing a comprehensive transparency website.
“We feel strongly that this isn’t a partisan issue, and
the fact that states that do best in our rankings show no political
pattern, with Texas and Massachusetts standing side-by-side, sort of
speaks that this is one of those issues that should not be politicized,”
Baxendall says. “We look forward to advancement in transparency in Ohio
regardless of who is in office.”