SALT LAKE CITY - Utah received a "B+" when it comes to government spending transparency, according to Following the Money 2012: How the States Rank on Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data, the third annual report of its kind by the United States Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG). That's a marked improvement from last year's "C" grade. Governor Gary R. Herbert is pleased with the State's progress, but has challenged state agencies and leaders to strive for a higher mark next year.
"Taxpayers and citizens have a right to know where every tax dollar goes and how it is spent, and state government has a responsibility to be accountable and open to constituents," the Governor said. "On balance, we have made great strides toward more openness and transparency in government. That's evident by enhanced web reporting and the installation of a government records ombudsman. But we will not back off our commitment to do better."
The Governor's statement is a reference to two state websites, transparent.utah.gov and performance.utah.gov, which document how state dollars are spent and how agencies are being held accountable for those expenditures. Sponsored by Senators Curt Bramble and John Valentine, SB177, which was recently passed by the Utah State Legislature and is on its way to the Governor's desk, provides for the official post of a government records ombudsman-an effort initiated by Governor Herbert last fall.
Providing transparency in government remains a top optimization priority for our department," said Kim Hood, Executive Director of the Utah Department of Administrative Services. "I am pleased with our progress and look forward to our continuing improvement."
"A 'B+' is a significant improvement and proves we are headed in the right direction. Under the direction of the Utah Transparency Advisory Board, our focus the past two years has been to get the financial data of all levels of government in Utah on the State's website, transparent.utah.gov," said John Reidhead, Finance Division Director in the Department of Administrative Services. "We are very appreciative of the cooperation of the local governments, 95% of which have posted their revenue and expense information on the State's website. We believe the website is a powerful tool and we encourage all Utah citizens to try it out."
The U.S. PIRG report identifies Utah as an advancing state and is available online at http://www.uspirg.org/reports/usp/following-money-2012