Ohio PIRG Education Fund and Frontier Group
Ohio again received an “A+” for its government spending transparency website, according to “Following the Money 2018: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data,” the eighth report of its kind by the United States Public Interest Research Group Education Fund and Frontier Group. The state leads the way nationally when it comes to spending transparency, tying this year with West Virginia.
“I believe the people of Ohio have a right to know how their tax money is being spent,” said Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel. “We are proud to be setting the national standard for government transparency and we will continue empowering taxpayers across Ohio to hold public officials accountable.”
The report graded each state’s transparency website from “A” to “F” based on its content and user-friendliness. This year, for the first time, we worked with focus groups to see how well the ordinary Americans could navigate the sites. With that new standard, most states’ grades dropped from our previous report.
“Ohio has not only succeeded in hitting our benchmarks for spending transparency, but has continued to raise the bar by adding local governments, pension funds, and universities to its checkbook,” said Michelle Surka, program director with U.S. PIRG Education Fund. “We’re glad to see other states beginning to catch up.”
The report found that many states’ websites lack features that make them intuitive for users, such as a full search function, standardized data descriptions and interactive tools, though Ohio earned high marks for its functionality.
“These sites can often be confusing for citizen users. Our focus groups put transparency websites to the test and found only a handful meet the expectations of a 21st century user.” said Rachel J. Cross, a Frontier Group analyst and report co-author.
Ohio qualifies as a “leading” state. For the past few years, Ohio has expanded its efforts into new realms of state spending transparency. It should continue to innovate, adding more local governments, school districts and universities, special districts, and public-private partnerships to its transparency initiative.
Ohio officials reported that their transparency portal cost $814,000, funded by the Treasurer’s existing budget, plus existing staff time, at launch.
To visit Ohio’s transparency website, click here: http://www.ohiotreasurer.gov/transparency/