Transparency, Performance Management, And The Public Trust

Source: Public Manager, Volume 38, Number 1, Spring 2009
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This Forum contains the following articles:

– Introduction – Cal Clark and Don-terry Veal
This introduction opens a forum whose articles have been adapted from the Symposium on Advancing Excellence and Public Trust in Government that was held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on September 17, 2007. The forum examines how promoting greater transparency and measuring performance can help restore America’s trust in the public sector.

– Bringing Transparency to Municipal Budgets – Irene Rubin
Budgeting certainly reflects reality, but this is often hard to see. The “telephone directory” approach often taken overwhelms its audience with page after page of data without emphasizing the important information. Consequently, although the budget contains the key facts and figures, the audience can’t discern them, which creates a sense of unreality. Municipal budgeting tends to be incredibly detailed but very unrevealing.

– Using the Internet to Make State Budgets Transparent – Sandra Fabry
To achieve accountability, government expenditures should be transparent and accessible. After all, the consent of the governed from which government derives its just powers is much more meaningful if it is informed. In today’s environment, we need a new standard of access because much of the fiscal information is available to the public due to sunshine laws at the state and federal levels. However, being subject to, say, the Freedom of Information Act doesn’t necessarily mean easy access.

– Measuring Government Performance to Promote Transparency – Richard Greene
The Government Performance Project is an effort funded by (and now within) the Pew Center on the States that examines each of the fifty state governments every three years in four major areas of management: human resources, infrastructure, strategic planning, and performance measurement.

– Targeted Transparency – David Weil
Transparency is a fundamental component of democratic government. It concerns the right of citizens to know about the activities of their government. Transparency policies have expanded to protect against institutional corruption, a notion that underlies Louis Brandeis’s famous quote: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”

– Transparency, Governance, and Civic Engagement – Christopher Hoene
This article opines that it’s not enough to just consider transparency in a budgeting sense. Planning and setting priorities, and then making the budget fit accordingly, is more important. Our system of public finance is broken. We’re making choices about services that everybody needs using revenue and finance mechanisms based on nineteenth and twentieth century economies. We’re in a twenty-first century economy that is creating wealth in many new and different ways, such as the Internet, but we are not figuring out how to tap that wealth and make it contribute equitably.

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