The States Open Up Their Books

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Since Congress passed the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, (also known as the Coburn-Obama bill) which mandated the Office of Management and Budget to create a searchable online database of all government spending (USASpending.gov), Betanews reports that Rhode Island is the latest state to build a similiar Web site. Rhode Islands is actually the 22nd state to have opened its books to the online world.

Betanews says that eight more have legislation pending to do the same. The article states that that Missouri’s Accountability Portal (Go Show-Me State!) is the most comprehensive of all the state online information sites.

This is a great development.

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  • Matt and Kristin,

    By going to this link you will find a list of all state spending sites.

    http://sunshinereview.org/index.php/States_with_spending_online

    Thanks for your interest!

  • Just checked the new Sunlight page with overviews of states with databases (the one Kristen asked for above): http://sunshinereview.org/index.php/States_with_spending_online.

    It’s a great resource and definitely headed down the track I was pushing for in the above comment. Let’s keep pushing more states to get on that list and keep them accountable for adopting the full panoply of measures it tracks!

    Austin

  • I work at Progressive States Network, where we have been working for a long time to increase states’ transparency not only on stimulus spending but on all private contractor spending. We just published a short piece today detailing federal requirements for state transparency — both online and off — and how far most states need to go. If anyone’s interested, you can find it here:

    http://progressivestates.org/node/22730

    (The section “Online Transparency: Making the Data Accessible to the Public,” is particularly relevant.)

    One point from the piece that bears emphasis is that a lot of the state sites that Ms. Miller alludes to above are pitifully lacking in detail. For example, at the Missouri site lauded by BetaNews, a query for IBM contracts in 2008 yields a list of six contract numbers with only one (functioning) link to a page with PDF documents containing bare bones one-line summaries of services and procurements. There is no detailed information about number of workers employed through each contract, hours worked, or wages paid, all of which data is crucial to ensuring that the stimulus generates the number of jobs that are needed to generate real economic recovery. What little information is available cannot be searched or sorted by legislative district, economic sector, keyword, etc., nor can total sums paid to any one organization or sectors of organizations be viewed in one place or compared in a straightforward manner.

    The point is that hand-waving at transparency is not enough, nor is transparency for transparency’s sake. If we’re going to use this opportunity of peak public interest in government transparency to engage states in the most productive way possible, we have to make sure that the transparency measures we put in place actually hold governments and their contractors accountable and — hopefully — help to promote a more equitable and just society and economy in the process.

    This is not to say we shouldn’t reward states for making strong initial steps toward online transparency. However even as we offer such encouragement, we mustn’t allow our leaders — or ourselves — to mistake piecemeal reforms for the ultimate goal of real and meaningful accountability.

    Austin

  • Kristin Wolff

    I have the same question – do you have a list of the remaining 20? (and links). Would be much appreciated.

  • What are the other 20 states?