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Tag Archive: Corruption

Transparency Case Studies: Some Early Lessons from the Field

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For much of this year I have been conducting research into the impacts of technology enabled transparency policy around the world. A significant step in this process was reading theory and existing evidence to find the footing and context of the project, as well as defining our scope and developing our methodology and research protocol. But over the last several months, the long process of data collection has begun. The first wave of the case study project is in full swing, and so I spend my days setting up and conducting interviews. At this point the data collection on our first case, public procurement in the Slovak Republic, is coming to a close. Despite the early stage, some interesting lessons and themes have already begun to emerge from the conversations I am having.

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Bell, California: Moving From Secrecy to Sunshine

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Bell-seal

We can't keep our eyes off the City of Bell, California -- and for good reasons.

The city gained notoriety in 2010 when the Los Angeles Times began to expose high salaries for city officials who did next to nothing. It was a problem that had been brewing for years, as the LA Times charted in a timeline of the corruption.

Bell's government is different now.

Bell has most recently been in the news not just for reaching a culminating point in the scandal -- the trial of six former city council members on corruption charges -- but also for a high transparency grade as part of a government website review. Sunshine Review, a non-profit that examines state and local government transparency, gave the city an A- grade in the 2013 Sunny Awards. The grades are based on whether certain information like budgets, open meeting laws, and lobbying records are posted online, as outlined in this checklist.

This is one indicator of the many steps the city government has taken toward greater transparency. Bell's efforts are notable for several reasons.

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STOCK Act Sausage Making

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If ever there were an example of knee-jerk legislating, the STOCK Act may be it. A thoughtful and comprehensive bill, introduced by Rep. Slaughter, languished for years until some bad publicity made Members of Congress decide to “take action.” But in their haste to demonstrate they were responsive to the public’s outcry over allegations of congressional insider trading, Congress passed a watered down version of the bill. Furthermore, since passing the STOCK Act, Congress has twice acted to delay implementation of the bill, citing the risk of unintended consequences of the transparency measures they enacted. The hurry up and wait method of legislating leaves one to wonder what will be disclosed when the sausage making is complete.

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