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Ohio scores "D" on transparency test

By IVY KELLER • Jul 29, 2016 at 2:00 PM

Norwalk City Council welcomed Dan Risko from the Ohio treasurer’s department on Tuesday, inviting him to speak about a new program.

Risko showed the council the government transparency website, ohiocheckbook.com. Launched by the treasurer’s office in 2014, local Ohio governments and schools can opt-in to display their spending online so citizens can see where every dollar goes.

It’s not a bad idea. The website allows anyone with access to a computer to view the spending, down to the checkbook level, of any participating schools and governments.

It even shows state spending from year to year, which can be broken down into separate categories with the click of a mouse. 

Following the launch of the website, Ohio received a perfect 100-point score last year on the U.S. Public Interest Research Group’s (U.S. PIRG) annual “Following the Money” report for 2015.

The PIRG gave Ohio a 51-point rating just one year earlier on the 2014 report, placing it 46th out of 50 states for spending transparency. Before fully implementing OhioCheckbook, the PIRG gave Ohio a low rating for lacking an online search feature for their checkbook, among other reasons.

It seems like the perfect solution, but the website is just one step toward solving Ohio’s transparency problems.

According to a press release from the state treasurer’s office, “In April 2016, U.S. PIRG announced that Treasurer Mandel earned Ohio the number one government transparency ranking in the country for the second consecutive year in a row.”

That’s not necessarily the case. Ohio may be leading the pack in spending transparency, but it’s doing a poor job on other fronts.

The PIRG also released another report in Nov. 2015, the State Integrity Investigation. This examines each state’s government accountability and overall transparency.

The results are underwhelming. Only three states received a C on a traditional A-F grading scale, and Ohio was not one of them. A grand total of 11 states received F’s, while the rest had D’s.

Ohio earned a D+ overall with a score of 68.

The PIRG determined these grades by assessing 13 different categories, including internal auditing, lobbying disclosure and public access to information.

Ohio’s worst category was public access to information, ranking 47th in the country. It also scored low on accountability, ranking 22nd in executive accountability, 24th in legislative accountability and 17th in judicial accountability.

The state did receive a single A, ranking third in the nation for state pension fund management.

The Buckeye State still came out 6th overall—even with those dismal numbers. Other states are not much better off.

 

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