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ANN ARBOR, March 26 – Michigan received an “A-” when it comes to government spending transparency, according to “Following the Money 2013: How the States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” the fourth annual report of its kind by the PIRGIM Education Fund.
“State governments across the country have become more transparent about where public money goes, providing citizens with the information they need to hold elected officials and businesses that receive public funds accountable,” said Meghan Hess, advocate with the PIRGIM Education Fund. “Michigan has made great progress, but there are ways to improve even more.”
“The State of Michigan is committed to accountability and openness, and the performance of government needs to be measured for all to see,” said Gov. Rick Snyder. “The fact that Michigan is being recognized for excellence in government transparency shows that we are living up to that commitment. Michiganders have the online tools at their disposal to see exactly how their government is performing and where their tax dollars are going.”
Officials from Michigan and 47 other states provided the researchers with feedback on their initial evaluation of state transparency websites. Michigan was ranked a leading state in terms of having a comprehensive transparency website, along with Texas, Massachusetts, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, and Oklahoma.
Based on an inventory of the content and ease-of-use of states' transparency websites, “Following the Money 2013” assigns each state a grade of “A” to “F.” The report describes Michigan as a “leading state” because the user-friendly website allows visitors to monitor the payments made to vendors through contracts, grants, tax credits and other discretionary spending. The website also provides access to information on municipal expenditures and spending details from public entities outside the state’s usual budget and accounting system.
Michigan’s grade is an improvement from the “B” it received in last year’s report.
Since last year’s “Following the Money” report, there has been remarkable progress across the country with new states providing online access to government spending information and several states pioneering new tools to further expand citizens’ access to this data.
“Open information about the public purse is crucial for democratic and effective government,” said Hess. “It’s impossible to ensure that government spending decisions are fair and efficient unless information is publicly accessible.”
States that have created or improved their online transparency have typically done so with little upfront cost. In fact, top-flight transparency websites can save money for taxpayers, while also restoring public confidence in government and preventing misspending and pay-to-play contracts
“The state of Michigan should build upon this year’s progress and further improve the breadth and ease-of-access of online government spending information,” said Hess. “Given the fierce debates surrounding our budgets, Michiganders need to be able to follow the money.”
To access Michigan’s transparency website, click here: www.michigan.gov/openmichigan
To read the report, click here: http://pirgim.org/reports/mip/following-money-2013
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