SACRAMENTO, Calif. Jan. 23, 2013 - Sacramento received a grade of "F" for spending transparency, according to a new report released today by CALPIRG. The report reviews Sacramento's progress toward comprehensive, one-stop, one-click budget accountability and accessibility.
"Sacramento scored very low in our study because it provides very little additional information beyond what is provided in the city's standard budget documents and lacks checkbook-level city spending information. Sacramento should prioritize transparency efforts in order to catch up with the advancing standards of Transparency 2.0," said Garo Manjikian, Advocate for CALPIRG.
The report, "Transparency in City Spending: Rating the Availability of Online Government Data in America's Largest Cities," reviews and grades the nation's thirty largest cities on how effectively they allow the public to track budgets, contracting, subsidies, grants and requests for quality-of-life services.
The grade of "F" reflects that Sacramento provides basic budget documents online but lacks checkbook-level city spending information. There is plenty of room for improvement. For example, Sacramento should provide checkbook-level spending data that is searchable by city department, keyword, and vendor and is downloadable for data analysis. The city should also post historical expenditure data from previous fiscal years and provide tax subsidy information that lists the benefits specific companies receive from the city's tax credits, exemptions, abatements and other tax subsidies. The city should also develop of a one-stop transparency website to centralize city spending information and make it easier for citizens to access such information.The report found that 17 of America's 30 most populous cities provide online databases of government expenditures with "checkbook-level" detail. Three cities received "A" grades and lead the pack in delivering easy-to-access, encompassing information on government spending: New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco. Five cities received failing grades, indicating that they offer little or no spending data online: Atlanta, Detroit, St. Louis, Sacramento, and Cleveland. San Diego also received a grade of "C-."
"The ability to see how government spends its funds is fundamental to democracy. Transparency in government spending checks corruption, bolsters public confidence, improves responsiveness, and promotes greater effectiveness and fiscal responsibility," said Manjikan.
The report makes a series of recommendations for cities to follow in order to achieve spending transparency, including:
· Cities should provide online databases of government expenditures with "checkbook-level" detail.
· Checkbook-level data should be searchable and downloadable
· Cities should provide web visitors with copies of contracts between vendors and the city.
· Cities should disclose the tax subsidies awarded to individual companies and recipients.
· Cities should maintain a central transparency portal for all city spending tools and documents.
· Cities should allow residents to view service requests submitted by other residents and the city's responses to those requests.
"City spending has a profound impact on residents' lives through basic government functions such as policing, sanitation and public health. Spending transparency can help residents of Sacramento old their elected leaders accountable and ensure that tax dollars are well spent," Manjikian.
The new study extends CALPIRG's annual reporting on state government transparency, which since 2010 has compared Los Angeles' spending transparency to the other 49 states: [see: 2012 Following the Money report]
The "Transparency in City Spending" report can be downloaded here.
CALPIRG, the CALIFORNIA Public Interest Research Group, stands up to powerful special interests on behalf of the public, working to win concrete results for our health and our well-being. www.calpirg.org
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