More than a billion dollars of our taxes are spent daily, yet there is little transparency, accountability or public disclosure of how and where...Taxpayers who wish to discover how their money is being used must trawl hundreds of pages of budget documents and submit time-consuming and costly freedom-of-information requests. Even then, information is scant. Ask any journalist. And these requests, as a Herald report showed on Monday, could be rejected in future as certain parliamentary departments are rendered exempt to FOI laws. But it does not have to be this way. A transparency revolution is under way overseas, empowering citizens, opening governments to scrutiny, and transforming governance. In 2006, in the US, the senators John McCain and Barack Obama co-sponsored the US federal funding accountability act. Its premise was simple: that taxpayer expenditure be placed online in an easily searchable database, so all taxpayers can find out how their money has been spent. Since then, the City of London, the European Union and 38 US states have enacted similar online portals - many with no thresholds, so every cent of taxpayer expenditure is publicly available...The benefits are obvious: not only are taxpayers empowered, but also savings can be easily identified, waste exposed and unethical behaviour discouraged.... It is time Australia joined this revolution. .... Corruption and rorting cannot occur when the records are freely available - sunlight truly is the best disinfectant. Such portals should be a ''no-brainer'' for policymakers.In December 2007 in "US transparency reform should be emulated here" we were saying much the same thing. Four and a half years on, it's a "no-brainer" whose time is yet to come. This effort on stimulus spending in 2009-10 was a toe in the water not dipped since.
Wednesday, June 06, 2012
Show us the money...sometime, please
Tim Andrews of the Australian Taxpayers' Alliance in Fairfax National Times today: