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Phoenix received a grade of “D” for spending transparency, according to a new report released today by the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. The report reviewed how well the thirty largest cities in the U.S. – including Phoenix - publicly provide data about city spending and revenues in an online transparency website.
“Unfortunately, Phoenix doesn’t give its residents the same level of detail about city spending that many other major cities provide,” said Serena Unrein, Public Interest Advocate for the Arizona PIRG Education Fund. “Since the ability to see how government spends its funds is fundamental to democracy, Phoenix should post information about city spending in an easily accessible, comprehensive website.”
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.
“City spending has a profound impact on residents’ lives through basic government functions such as policing, sanitation and public health. Spending transparency can help Phoenicians hold their elected leaders accountable and ensure that tax dollars are well spent,” added Unrein.
The grade of “D” reflects that Phoenix lacks a central transparency website with checkbook-level detail on city expenditures. The report recommends making checkbook-level expenditure information accessible in a way that does not require users to read through individual contracts and that the information is downloadable for data analysis. The report found that 17 of America’s 30 most populous cities provide online databases of government expenditures with “checkbook-level” detail.
“Taxpayers deserve to know in detail, not in the abstract, how Phoenix is spending tax dollars,” said Dr. Byron Schlomach, the Director of the Goldwater Institute’s Center for Economic Prosperity. “It’s time to lift the veil on local government spending by placing this information online.”
“While there’s still plenty of room for improving government spending transparency, Phoenix deserves credit for implementing some transparency measures such as moving to a zero-based budgeting process and holding community budget hearings,” said Unrein. “Phoenix should extend its transparency efforts to include online spending transparency.”
The new study extends the Arizona PIRG Education Fund’s reporting on state government transparency, which since 2010 has compared Arizona’s spending transparency to the other 49 states in its annual Following the Money report.
The report comes shortly after the requirement that local governments in Arizona have comprehensive transparency websites operational by January 1st, 2013. This change comes as a result of legislation that was passed in 2010. The State of Arizona launched OpenBooks, its comprehensive transparency website, in December 2010.
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