Shine a Light on Local Governments

By Caleb Taylor

In an op-ed published Thursday in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, ACRE Policy Analyst Dr. Mavuto Kalulu and ACRE Research Assistant Terra Aquia discuss the need for greater transparency of county government operations in Arkansas.

According to Kalulu and Aquia, county governments in general are far less transparent than state government in Arkansas.

Kalulu and Aquia write:

“Arkansas’ county governments are far less transparent than state government, yet they are just as important. Their closeness to the citizens allows them to be direct providers of most public services, including public health and public safety. When citizens are unaware of how elected officials allocate tax dollars, abuses can take place.”

Greater transparency is needed at the local level in order to help deter corruption, according to Kalulu and Aquia. They cite a recent story by the city of Damascus’ police chief who spent nearly $10,000 on restaurant meals, clothing, shoes, online shopping and other items using state funds.

Kalulu and Aquia conclude by calling for local governments to make their financial information more accessible to the general public by publishing it online similar to the state’s website.

Kalulu and Aquia write:

“Arkansans deserve to know how every one of their tax dollars is spent. To ensure that, financial transparency from the local and state government is imperative. All Arkansas local governments should make their up-to-date financial information easily accessible to the public by posting the information online in a fashion similar to the state’s transparency.”

Kalulu and Aquia are currently developing an index to rank all Arkansas counties by how much financial, political and administrative information their websites contain. It’s expected to be released sometime in 2018.

CORRECTION: In the published op-ed, the authors incorrectly stated that the 2013 Transparency Report Card produced by the Sunshine Review showed that the Arkansas state government earned a C+, and Arkansas counties earned an F. The Arkansas state government actually earned a B. The overall grade for Arkansas (average of city, state and county) was a C+, and Arkansas counties earned an F.