April 14, 2009

Collaboration, not competition, needed in transparency push

When a Governor issues an executive order promoting transparency, it is usually praised. Yet the details show that Colorado Governor Bill Ritter's plan to open up the state's finances may actually be undercutting transparency efforts.

A transparency project unveiled by Gov. Bill Ritter on Thursday would create a searchable database online so taxpayers could peruse the state's checkbook.

Unfortunately, once you look at the details of the governor's plan, it doesn't appear to be as far-reaching and useful as a similar proposal already in the state legislature.

Ritter's plan is to post information such as state credit-card expenses and other financial documents on a searchable and public website. In addition, it would show spending totals by department, types of spending and vendor.

However, Ritter's plan falls short of complete transparency in two ways. First, it only shows the aggregate spending levels, rather than detailed reports. Second, his effort undermines a stronger transparency bill moving through the state legislature.

Let's hope the governor's executive order is the start, not the end, of Colorado's transparency reforms.