For Immediate Release
April 7, 2008
Transparency, a key government responsibility
By Susan Combs
Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts
You pay for your government, and you deserve to know how it spends your money.
That philosophy is gaining traction. State and federal governments are making transparency a priority, opting to make many records freely accessible, rather than keeping the public waiting for information requests.
From the beginning of my tenure at the Comptroller’s office, we prioritized transparency efforts. On day three, we published this agency’s expenditures online – down to the pencils – and posted other agencies’ expenditure data in short order.
Building upon those efforts, our office created Where the Money Goes, an online database for viewing state agency spending. Expenditures in the database are searchable by vendor name, expenditure category or agency name. With that kind of easy access to the information and numbers that make public institutions tick, taxpayers can learn about their government, question decisions, root out inefficiencies and hold officials accountable for the way tax dollars are spent.
Other Texas agencies have begun to embrace the idea that we can better inform taxpayers about spending. Together, our offices are standardizing agency spending reports and focusing an eye toward providing more detailed, consistent pictures of state expenditures in the future.
Transparency is not just a Texas issue. Sen. John Cornyn will soon introduce the Federal Spending and Taxpayer Accessibility Act of 2008. Recognizing the leadership role of our office and Texas state government in transparency initiatives, Sen. Cornyn modeled the bill in part on our efforts. His legislation would expand upon www.usaspending.gov, the national database that allows taxpayers to search for federal contracts and grants.
Technology – and the Web in particular – has changed the expectations for customer service and government transparency at all levels. In a computer- and Internet-based society, we can no longer justify the money and time required to print reports. Publishing information online means no postage, no waiting for the mail, up-to-date documents and worldwide accessibility.
By demystifying state spending and providing easy access to those numbers, we ensure greater accountability to the public. As the window on Texas state government, our office cannot have the blinds pulled down.
For more information on Texas state agency expenditures, visit www.window.state.tx.us.