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The FOI Advocate is a compendium of ideas, edited story excerpts and other materials from a variety of Web sites, as well as original concepts and analysis. When the information comes directly from another source, it will be attributed and a link will be provided whenever possible. The blog relies on the accuracy and integrity of the original sources cited. We will correct errors and inaccuracies when we become aware of them.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

States Embracing Contract Transparency...

A nice look at the emerging sunshine in state governments by the Baltimore Sun...

Houston spent $33,000 on bullets this year, but "Space City" paid nearly three times that to buy horse food. And while fuel costs have increased $3 million in Missouri since 2005, at least the "Show Me State" taxpayers spent 35 percent less on contracts for barbecue and pizza.

From costly construction projects and health insurance payments to the meals bureaucrats expense when they work late, state and local governments are increasingly putting their checkbooks online - allowing regular citizens to follow the money.

Months after Maryland lawmakers approved a plan to put the state's financial information online, a member of Baltimore's City Council is proposing the same idea for City Hall.

"Sometimes a shroud of secrecy casts a bad light unnecessarily," said City Councilwoman Belinda Conaway, who plans to introduce her bill Monday. "Everything can be aboveboard, but because it's not public, people suspect that there's something wrong."

Public access advocates have cheered the trend and say the information is used by a wide spectrum of people, including nonprofit leaders, journalists and contractors. Kansas, Hawaii, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Texas have approved similar sites.

"We're seeing just a whole lot of this at the state and local level across the country in bits and pieces," said Charles N. Davis, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition. "It's subject to a couple of forces. One, politics, and people embracing transparency and becoming more proactive."

More here.

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