This County Has Arkansas’s Most Transparent Government

By Caleb Taylor

Is your county government giving citizens all the facts they need to stay informed?

You can find out through a new Transparency Index released by the Arkansas Center for Research in Economics this week.

This inaugural index produced by ACRE Policy Analyst Mavuto Kalulu and Program Coordinator Terra Aquia ranks all Arkansas counties by how much financial, political and administrative information their websites contain.

Washington County received the highest overall transparency score with Pulaski, Benton, Garland and Baxter rounding out the top five.

For context, Arkansas counties earned an F grade in the  2013 Transparency Report Card produced by the Sunshine Review.

Kalulu and Aquia note that only 8 of 75 Arkansas counties  published budgets online for 2017–2018. They suggest state legislators consider requiring county governments do so by amending state law. No counties published audited financial statements for 2016–2017 online. Kalulu and Aquia hope the index will motivate Arkansas counties to improve access to this important information for their constituents.

Other areas Kalulu and Aquia list as areas for Arkansas counties to improve are making contact information for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests available online. Currently, only five counties list this information. Also, no county in Arkansas currently publishes financial disclosure and conflict of interest statements online.

Kalulu and Aquia conclude:

Corruption is a complex problem, and the attempts to address it will not all be simple. But increasing county web transparency is a straightforward way to begin. The information already exists and it should be made public. It makes officials more accountable. It makes citizens more powerful. Corruption shouldn’t happen. But if it happens, it should be easily discovered and quickly stopped. This index is a tool, a measuring tape for good governance, and we hope Arkansans use it to build a better and more transparent state government.”

Kalulu and Aquia will be speaking at the County Judges 2018 Fall meeting today at 9:30 a.m. at the Wyndham Riverfront Hotel in North Little Rock.