John locke foundationtrust but verify
open government is better government
Governments have been seeking ways to adopt oradvertise their eorts at open government, sun-shine, and transparency. Recent history is rie, how-ever, with examples o how they have ailed – suchas Gov. Mike Easley’s nancial dealings and the holein the state health plan.Open government helps build trust with tax-payers. Tools that improve openness with taxpayershave also helped government ocials and manag-ers better use their resources. Some state and localgovernments ound ways to save money throughimproved transparency.
is an important step to- ward open government. Online budgets, contracts,salaries, and check registers make inormation moreaccessible. Corporate nancial statements providea model in clarity and accessibility. Too many gov-ernment documents are not searchable in any way. When tied to outcome measures such as test scoresin education, this greater accessibility can providebetter insight about which government programs work and which ones do not.
opens the closed doorselected ocials try to hide behind when dratinglaws. Putting bills online 72 hours beore debateand voting begin, instead o in the middle o thenight the day o a vote, would leave ewer surprisesin legislation. Five-year scal projections or stateand local budgets would also make clear the impactso program changes over time, not just or the yearor two a budget is in eect. Governments shouldalso take urther steps to publicize their meetingsbeorehand, record their proceedings, and makeminutes or archived recordings available online.
means making theproceedings o non-elected bodies as open as thoseo the legislature, county commissions, and towncouncils. Proposed regulations should be easier tond and understand or those with an interest. Thestate auditor or an independent body should per-orm any audits or perormance reviews. Reviewsshould cover not just how well an agency or pro-gram accomplishes its mission, but also whether themission is appropriate or government.
hy Transparency Matters
Open government is needed or a healthy democ-racy. Yet much o how government operates is un-known.
rst reported on Gov. Eas-ley’s nancial dealings in 2006,
but it took until Bev Perdue took oce and opened state police recordsor details to emerge.
The state spent as much as$226 million in excess cost or mental health ser-vices over three years. It took months or the coststo become large enough to gain attention and theull extent o the problem was not realized until thelegislature’s Program Evaluation Division presentedits ndings in July 2009.
The $250 million holeor 2009 in the state health plan also caught legisla-tors by surprise.