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Ohio Announces Unprecedented Transparency Effort

The Ohio government announced a first-of-its-kind initiative Tuesday to make every check issued by all 3,962 local governments in the state available in a searchable, online database.

“Ohioans have a right to see how their tax money is being spent at every level of government,” Ohio’s Republican Treasurer, and Marine combat veteran, Josh Mandel said in a press release Tuesday announcing the initiative, adding, “My vision is to create an army of citizen watchdogs who are empowered to hold public officials accountable.”

The same day, Mandel sent letters to 18,062 local government and school officials inviting them to participate, promising that the state would cover the full cost of setting up and maintaining the database. Data provided by the local governments will be added to OhioCheckbook.com, a catalog of state spending that Mandel’s office set up last year.

OhioCheckbook.com displays information on more than $408 billion in spending from over 112 million transactions over the past seven years, and “recently earned Ohio the number one ranking in the country for government transparency,” according to the press release. (RELATED: States May Have to Disclose Business Subsidy Costs)

To assist with the expansion of the database, Ohio is collaborating with OpenGov, a tech startup that works on financial transparency platforms for governments.

“Ohio has already set a gold standard for financial transparency with its state-level OhioCheckbook.com database, but this is the first time that any state has sought to expand transparency to every level of local government,” OpenGov CEO Zac Bookman said in a blog post Tuesday.

Once the system is up and running, he claims, “citizens across the Buckeye State will be able to follow how each and every one of their tax dollars is spent by their local government,” even down to the amounts spent by individual city departments and paid to particular vendors.

While a growing number of states and cities are taking advantage of improving technology to launch their own transparency initiatives, Bookman asserts that, “this is the first time that any state has sought to expand transparency to every level of local government.” (RELATED: Corporate Political Transparency Grows Along With Dark Money)

The plan has already elicited praise from a variety of sources within Ohio including media groups, think tanks, and government officials, according to the Treasurer’s press release.

“Josh Mandel’s online checkbook may be the most important transparency initiative since the original public records law,” Ohio Auditor Dave Yost gushed. “I gladly join his call for all local governments to take advantage of this new standard for accountability.”

Dennis Hetzel, executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association, added that, “These efforts will lead to better-informed citizens and new tools to help officials make smarter decisions on how they spend public dollars.” (RELATED: ‘Dismal’ State Department Given an ‘F’ on Transparency)

“Transparency is the foundation for accountability at all levels of government,” explained Greg Lawson of the non-partisan Buckeye Institute, and “With these tools, local governments can prove to their constituents how effective they are with taxpayer dollars or be held to account for poor choices.”

“Public records are owned by the people, but so often we don’t have easy access to them,” noted Catherine Turcer, a policy analyst for Common Cause Ohio, a group that promotes government transparency. The new database, though, “opens the doors to the public and invites citizens in to explore the inner workings of their local government.”

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Content created by The Daily Caller News Foundation is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a large audience. For licensing opportunities of our original content, please contact licensing@dailycallernewsfoundation.org.



 

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