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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Transparency central to lifting trust in government

Here is an extract from the introduction to The Pew Center Report on the Government Performance Project - how well state governments in the US manage information, infrastructure, money, and people, released earlier this year:
"Just a few years ago, states would boast about their latest, cutting-edge piece of
technology. Not anymore. Today, it’s not the tools. It’s results. One of those is transparency. In an era when “trust in government” is at low ebb, states are working to open up communications with their constituents."
The report concludes that "information is king", not in the sense so familiar here, that spin dominates government thinking, but in the recognition that how well government manages, analyses and disseminates information is central to performance in all areas:
"No single idea emerges more clearly from year-long research done for the 2008 Government Performance Project. As always, this report focuses on four fundamental areas of government management: Information, People, Money and Infrastructure. But this year, the elements that make up the information category—planning, goal-setting, measuring performance, disseminating data and evaluating progress—overlap with the other three fields to a greater degree than ever before. Information elements, in short, are key to how a state
takes care of its infrastructure, plans for its financial future and deals with the dramatic changes affecting the state workforce."
The criteria for the assessment of performance in the information category were:
• The state actively focuses on making future policy and collecting information to support
that policy direction.
• Elected officials, the state budget office and agency personnel have appropriate data
on the relationship between costs and performance and use these data when making
resource-allocation decisions.
• Agency managers have the appropriate information required to make program
management decisions.
• The governor and agency managers have appropriate data that enable them to assess
the actual performance of policies and programs.
The public has appropriate access to information about the state, the performance
of state programs and state services and is able to provide input to state policy makers.

Overall the states were rated B- in this category. The Grading the States 2008 Report is here. Thanks to Free Government Information for the link.

The Australian states would all point to some evidence of performance management and reporting, but I can't recall similar recognition of the"information as king" point, the assessment of performance in provision of access to information, or any ongoing comparative work, but happy to stand corrected.

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