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Monday, December 17, 2007

US transparency reform should be emulated here

You might be reading a fair bit about Senator Barack Obama, but you may not know that he was a prime mover in getting a law through the US Congress in 2006 requiring greater transparency from the Federal Government.

The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act required by January 2008 publication on a single searchable website information about Federal contracts, grants, loans, and direct payments of government money. The database developed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), is now up on the web ahead of the specified deadline as

You can search by agency, state, electoral district or subject. It will be updated in real time, and members of the public can offer comments. Here are some other details.

Senator Obama said
"This site helps us to achieve.....a vision that, in a democracy people ought to know how their government is operating. This isn't Democratic vision or a Republican vision. It's a vision that rejects the idea that government actions should be kept secret".
The other co sponsor Senator Tom Coburn, said the Act was "the most important transparency measure passed by Congress since the Freedom of Information Act".

Let's hope those who have the ear of our new Special Minister of State, Senator Faulkner and the new Minister for Finance, Lindsay Tanner, alert them to what could be, if they are serious about improving transparency and accountability in our neck of the woods.

While they're at it, they should also bring to their attention some other handy innovations such as the OMB's which shows information about what Federal Government programs perform well and fall short, and what's being done to improve performance next year. There are hundreds of programs listed where results have not been demonstrated and many where performance has been ineffective.

Minister Tanner's razor gang on our Federal expenditure commitments could take a leaf out of this book, and ensure that we are kept fully informed about Federal Government programs that survive the cut.

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